How do you save a media brand when your name is Rupert Murdoch or News Corp.?
You shut down a profitable weekend newspaper; you buy back $5 billion in News Corp. shares; you cut bait on trying to take over British Sky Broadcasting; you trot out a couple of resignations ; and you take out full-page ads in U.K. newspapers, including one that had long pursued a story against one of your own papers.
There'll be more coming.
Murdoch's initial brand message in the U.S., as the owner of a group of tabloid newspapers, was "tough, get-the-story-at-all-costs, and for-gods-sake-don't-apologize." Some of that tough brand patina later worked its way onto the Fox network in later years, and onto take-no-prisoner reality shows.
But now many fear that some of his brands have gone too far.
Murdoch -- perhaps biting his tongue -- offers a personal apology for phone hacking and claims of bribing police. At the end of the print ad, he hints there will be more to come: "In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us."
Hmmm... Might that mean a TV ad as well?
Right now, the News Corp. brand problem seems to be contained in the U.K., but it may not end there.
The FBI is investigating News Corp. operations in the U.S. because News Corp. employees might have tapped phones of the families of 9/11 victims. So the question of what happens to the brand in this country is going forward. Perhaps nothing will happen. Don't expect advertisers to cut back on their buys on Fox's "American Idol" or "Glee," or on the Fox News Channel.
But you can't take an FBI investigation lightly. Many might think that if such behavior was okay for one News Corp. media outlet, why not others? That's the danger, and why News Corp. looks to contain the damage.
Tabloid journalists -- or any journalists -- have an increasingly tougher time competing in the vastly growing digital world. But a crime is a crime. Having a "tough" image at a newspaper will only take you so far.
Murdoch first said in The Wall Street Journal that the accusations were "total lies. Now, he says, there was "serious wrongdoing." News Corp.'s brand message is seemingly changing.