Rupert Murdoch's grandson James MacLeod: Why I'm voting Green

James MacLeod says he has not been persuaded by either of the main parties

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The Independent Online

Natalie Bennett has received a boost ahead of Thursday night leaders’ debate – an unexpected endorsement from the house of Murdoch.

James MacLeod, Rupert Murdoch’s 24 year-old grandson, who is making waves as a digital news entrepreneur, has revealed he is voting Green at the election.

And like his grandfather, MacLeod, the co-creator of Clippet, a news app which delivers bite-sized audio clips to “millennials”, wants to use his influence ahead of next month’s poll.

Millennials, the generation aged 18-28, are the target audience for Clippet’s 60-second summaries of the day’s most important stories.

Research commissioned by Clippet found that millennials believe that it is important to vote but do not feel that traditional media, including the outlets controlled by Rupert Murdoch, are able to engage them in a language that they understand.

The research found that 20% of young voters use social media as a source of news. Many felt that news is often jargon-ridden, biased and not relevant to them if it’s presented by an older generation. Those who don’t vote said they lacked sufficient information to make an informed choice.

MacLeod said: “We are doing better at getting young people to vote but millennials are disengaged from any media that seems old-fashioned. I personally don’t know what the policies on the NHS are of the leading parties but I’m not ashamed of that because I am a millennial.”

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Clippet, the audio news app that Macleod co-founded

MacLeod, the son of Prudence, Mr Murdoch’s eldest daughter and Alasdair MacLeod, a former News Corp executive, has not been persuaded by either of the main parties.

“I’m probably going to vote Green,” MacLeod, who cycles to meetings, revealed. “I’m not particularly attracted to the Tories and because I’m a Londoner, I’m quite an environmentalist.

“I think the Greens have sound policies across the board and over the past four years they’ve strengthened their brand. Their social media strategy has really made them accessible to younger people.”

A dedicated election resource on Clippet will deliver campaign news reports, including vox pops of young people. The site will also host a policy blog which will explain what “the big issues are in simple terms.”

 

MacLeod wants Clippet’s clout to continue after the election. “Over the next five years I would like to see a Committee within Parliament made up from young people who are voted in by their peers that will have a real say in the House of Commons,” he said.

MacLeod, who spent his teens in Sydney, came up with the Clippet concept because he wanted something to listen to whilst cycling from Paddington to the Cass Business School in East London. The Clippet style would be “conversational, between Radio 1’s Newsbeat and Radio 4.”

He dropped out of business school to pursue Clippet with co-founder Grace Regan – MacLeod admits he was “not applying himself” to his studies. But like his grandfather, he is finding that there are bumps on the road to becoming a billionaire media mogul. Clippet’s distribution of less data-heavy audio-only clips challenges the conventional view that mobile video is the most effective way to reach a young audience.

“Unfortunately we’ve come to a point in the road where we’re desperately trying to find money,” MacLeod admitted. “The numbers are pretty small right now (around 3,000 Clippets are played each day) and right now we’re filling in the holes in the app. We pumped a lot of money into the marketing and obviously the product wasn’t ready. We now have a much better product.”

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Rupert Murdoch: James MacLeod's grandfather (Getty)

MacLeod hopes to license the technological platform behind Clippet to other companies. He did enjoy a spell working for Mr Murdoch’s Fox News on the advertising sales side but won’t make the obvious call to News Corp for a helping hand. “I didn’t meet any of my team of advisers through News Corp although Will Lewis (Chief Executive Officer of Dow Jones and former News Corp manager) was a great help. We’ve been incredibly lucky that lots of people have kept faith in us.”

MacLeod desperately wants Clippet to succeed under its own wind. He and Regan have divided up the company in order to get the business plan back on track. He arrived at his Goodge Street offices unshaven admitting: “I didn’t sleep last night, you’ve caught me in the middle of a start-up nightmare.”

Is there anyone in his family he might call for advice on building a media empire? Has he demonstrated Clippet to Rupert, 84, who struggled to adapt to the digital revolution? “I’m getting into a place where my grandfather can’t say ‘No’ to it,” MacLeod said. “I get very funny reactions from my grandfather. He goes either way depending on his mood…and his levels of sleep!”

Would James consider selling Clippet in the future? “It depends who’s buying…and for what price.” He has clearly inherited something of the deal-making Murdoch gene.

Going it alone – the Murdoch children

Prudence Murdoch - Rupert’s eldest daughter married a ranking News Corp executive but stayed out of dynastic wranglings. “She gets away with saying what the others won’t, even things that the others won’t think,” Vanity Fair claimed.

Elisabeth Murdoch - Daughter quit BSkyB to set up her own successful television production business and married PR guru Matthew Freud who enjoyed frosty relationship with Rupert. The couple split and she pocketed £153m when her Shine company was sold to dad’s News Corp in 2011.

Lachlan Murdoch - Eldest son stunned his father in 2005 by walking out of News Corp, where he held the third-highest position in the company. Now the heir apparent after returning to the fold as Rupert’s co-chairman of News Corporation and 21st Century Fox.

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