Now that Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. will officially take the reins of Dow Jones, and with it the flagship Wall Street Journal, maybe media pundits will move on from the interesting, but generally futile analysis of Murdoch's anticipated influence over editorial content and concentrate on how capably the company can execute on its vision of the future.
If the Journal cannot sustain its credibility, it will ultimately lose its stature and destroy itself, even if it is a slow, lingering death. But for the broader media industry, the more important story is how this traditional company will either thrive or not with the firepower and vision of new leadership that endorses an aggressive digital strategy.
When PRWeek co-hosted a lunch in December with the Journal to introduce the redesigned print edition to PR leaders, the discussion was focused not so much on the nice new layout or even the relative size of the news hole, but rather on the nuances of how the Journal would be integrating print and online coverage. The physical shrinking of the paper was perhaps more of a recasting of the balance between media platforms than a retreat from print. Meanwhile, editors were grappling with not only the print deadlines, but also with issues like how to incorporate video, including VNRs, into coverage online, and where and when it might be feasible to arm reporters with cameras for spot interviews that go beyond the pad and pen.
The Journal, always intelligent about business, may not necessarily know best when it comes to the digital universe and the fundamental ways media companies must change. It is not alone in finding the shift in reader habits and competitive landscape daunting. While we hope the Journal will sustain its longstanding editorial credibility, we also hope it can gain a new commercial credibility that will serve as a model for the entire industry.