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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Lead Systems Developer / Software Developer

COMPETITIVE + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Lead Systems Developer / Sof...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Engagement Manager - French or German Speaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The world's leading financial services careers...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive - 6 Months Contract

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Digital Marketing Executive...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Senior Account Manager

40-45K DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Manager / Senior Account Manag...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future