The Gold Rush for Financial Information

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Is all the personal and political coverage of the Rupert Murdoch story missing the point? To wit: financial information is the prize in Murdoch’s bid for The Wall Street Journal. “Let’s do the numbers” is the lead-in line on public radio’s Marketplace. “Let’s own the numbers” is the theme of Rupert Murdoch’s ambition, which is not just to own The Journal and join the top ring of the American publishers’s club, but to combine the lustre and electronics of the Dow Jones wire with the TV reach of the Fox network and be more than competitive with General Electric’s business cable channel, CNBC. This is the same realm of brilliantly digitized global market information that has made Michael Bloomberg rich and famous; the same lode of precious business information that prompted the Thompson Group to make a play for Reuters. Our conversation this hour starts on the premise that the consolidation of ownership of the best (in this case: billable) information in our society is more interesting really than Murdoch’s very well known personal lust to own The Wall Street Journal and his contrary political history over the years.

Why the interest now? Is it driving a revaluation of media and newspapers, or is the real story here about digital properties?

Steven R. Pearlstein

Business Columnist, The Washington Post

John Cassidy

Staff Writer, The New Yorker

Extra Credit Reading

Sarah Ellison, A New Test for Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2007: “The proposed tie-up between Reuters and Thomson surfaced just days after Mr. Murdoch’s bid became public. Such a deal promises to change the landscape for financial news and data. In particular, it presents a challenge and an opportunity to Dow Jones Newswires, which is part of the company’s most-profitable unit, the Enterprise Media Group.”

Rupert Murdoch, Mixed Media, Forbes.com, May 7, 2007: “Companies that take advantage of this new meaning of network and adapt to the expectations of the networked consumer can look forward to a new golden age of media. Far be it from me to suggest that either I or my company have all the answers.”

John Cassidy, Murdoch’s Game, The New Yorker, October 16, 2006: “Murdoch likes to keep people guessing about his intentions. On September 14th, the Post published a front-page story encouraging New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to launch a Presidential bid. ‘RUN, MIKE, RUN,’ the headline read. ‘Americans like him for prez: poll.'”

Henry Blodget, Why Murdoch Wants Dow Jones (and Why CNBC Should Sweat), Internet Outsider, May 1, 2007: “If Rupert is successful in his Dow Jones bid, however, CNBC will look comparatively like business-lite. The sharp, telegenic Wall Street Journal reporters who now provide CNBC with some of its pith will provide it to FOX’s business channel instead. “

Emily Bell, Is this a blast of Murdoch from the past?, The Guardian, May 7, 2007: “Murdoch is positioning the company where he thinks, for the next generation, it needs to have its powerbase. This is in the powerful market and advertising vehicle of content and scaleable social media (all those MySpace eyeballs), and influential and relatively valuable real-time financial information.”

Steve Hannaford, Dominating financial information, Oligopoly Watch, May 9, 2007: “It’s no coincidence that the two major filters of financial companies are being wrested away from independent holders to major information oligopolies. Meanwhile other bidders are said to be lining up for their chance at Dow Jones.”

Justin Fox, That other big media merger and what it means, The Curious Capitalist, May 9, 2007: “But consider these two numbers: $5 billion and $18 billion. The first is what Murdoch’s News Corp. has offered to pay for Dow Jones; the second is what Thomson is paying for Reuters. The venerable wire service and market-data provider that spent the past 26 years losing ground to upstart rival Bloomberg is still worth more than three times as much as the parent company of the Wall Street Journal.”

Weboy, How Now, Dow Jones?, NYCweboy, May 9, 2007: “Make no mistake, Murdoch’s overvalued offer – an absurd premium over the $33 stock price that had been out there – was largely a play to give legitimacy to his goal of launching Fox Business News as a cable channel. In one swoop, Murdoch would control the market’s major indicator (the Dow Jones Industrial Average) and it’s most legitimate arm of business reportage in the Wall Street Journal.”

Brian Dunbar, in a comment to Open Source, May 10, 2007: “My only thought pre-show is that all of this is a really good thing for me at least; if you’re going to store, manage and make sense of all that data you’ll need a lot of intelligent highly paid guys who understand who to manage all of those 1s and 0s.”

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