Heading up parts of the overhaul will be successful staffers working on News Corp. papers abroad. "We have to do a lot of reorganization in a lot of areas there," Murdoch said of the daily with a U.S. circulation of 1.7 million. "We think we have to modernize its business methods ... we see with our experience and with our people that we can bring in from Australia and from Britain and from New York, we'll be able to make huge strides in the quality, attractiveness and the value of The Wall Street Journal."
As Murdoch addressed shareholders in Australia, he near-definitively answered speculation about the paid status of the WSJ.com Web site. The executive called it an "excellent site" and said he "expect(s)" to make it free, looking to boost users from some 1 million to perhaps 15 million. "We think that, in turn, will attract relatively large sums of advertising revenue," he said--noting the loss of subscriber revenue.
Murdoch also indicated the site would take on more urgency, with an emphasis on faster updating and posting of breaking news. That could set the stage for Dow Jones Newswires to play a greater role in contributing to the site.
Still, in an interview with Editor & Publisher after Murdoch spoke, the Journal's executive overseeing multi-platform sales said plans for an open-access site may be a little ambitious, at least in the short-term.
"It is jumping the gun--people are jumping to conclusions here very quickly. We haven't even closed the deal yet," Michael Rooney, senior vice president and chief revenue officer, told E&P. "Mr. Murdoch would like to have the largest, most robust site in business. Free is a way to look at that. But there is a lot of detail behind that. You have to work that out. You don't just flip the switch."
News Corp. is within steps of taking control of what Murdoch called "the most prestigious brand in publishing anywhere in the world."