Peter Cole on The Press

Murdoch, the last of the great media moguls. Oh yeah? What price predictions from the man who took a dozen years to wake up to the internet?

Rupert Murdoch has become reflective of late. Three score and 15 years seem to have brought out both his contemplative and his visionary sides. In his speech at the Stationers' Hall in London last week he talked about the digital future while at the same time striking a fin de siècle note. "Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry," he said, "the editors, the chief executives and, let's face it, the proprietors."

Jeremy Tunstall, a media sociologist, has described four types of newspaper ownership: the Press Lord, the Crown Prince, the Media Mogul and the Chief Executive. The Press Lord (or Baron) was dominant from the turn of the 20th century to the 1960s: Lords Northcliffe (Mail), Beaverbrook (Express), Camrose (Telegraph). They were rich, powerful and autocratic. Their papers were playthings as well as businesses, earning them political and social influence. They felt no need to justify or defend their power.

The Crown Princes were their sons and inheritors, sometimes having less vision, business acumen or authority. The Northcliffe (Rothermere) dynasty continues at the Mail, but the Beaverbrook (Aitken) and Camrose (Kemsley) families have given way to the Media Moguls.

These have four characteristics, according to Tunstall: they own, they operate, they are entrepreneurs and they have an eccentric management style. They have included Roy Thomson, Robert Maxwell, Conrad Black and, most dominantly, Rupert Murdoch. They have been followed by Sir Anthony O'Reilly the Barclay brothers, Richard Desmond, men associated with ownership of their companies.

The Chief Executives, who run rather than own media conglomerates, include Sly Bailey (Trinity Mirror) and Dame Marjorie Scardino (Financial Times). They are appointed by and can be removed by their boards. They have conventional business imperatives - such as efficiency, profits and a strong share price.

Rupert Murdoch, not just in Britain but globally, not just in print but with television, is signalling, or at least ruminating about, the next era. After decades of dominating the media landscape, after creating his own Crown Princes and Princess but not promising or as yet delivering the throne, he teases them and us with the idea that this era of Media Moguls ends with him.

In one sense, it does - the post-Murdoch media world will be different. But that difference is emerging already, while Murdoch is still around. He admits he was slow to wake up to the digital world. He paid it little heed until a year ago, when his Washington speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors marked his awakening.

What is fascinating is how far his influence spreads among those who revere him, fear him or despise him. The significance of the internet and other digital forms for traditional media was clear to some 12 to 15 years ago. But in this country only the two big media organisations without shareholders, the BBC and The Guardian, did much about it. As ever, the bean counters said, "Where's the revenue stream?" and nobody could give a convincing answer.

So when the old man became the most famous late adopter, those who didn't quite find time for the conversation suddenly talked of nothing else. Everybody is engaged, from the Lancashire Evening Post's digital newsroom project to The Daily Telegraph's podcast; from The Guardian's "Comment is Free" blog forum to the exploitation of the latest Murdoch acquisition, MySpace.com, by The Times' and The Sun.

There is a lot of confusion out there, a lot of sucking it and seeing. But right across the industry heads have come out of the sand, and Murdoch is largely responsible for that. It was a while coming, but at 75 he has demonstrated that he can spot a new thing (or, at least the time to climb on board), see the digital potential and, most importantly, the positive relationship between it and traditional media. The link is good journalism. If we take him at his word we can drink to that.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'