Monday, February 13, 2006

Not-So-Golden Oldie

This past Thursday, the Wall Street Journal printed an editorial by Peter Chernin, credited as president and CEO of (Rupert Murdoch's) News Corporation. Judging by Mr. Chernin's articulation of the return of "old media," I believe I better understand why it has been on its way out to begin with.

Under the guise of any media-related technology, Mr. Chernin asserts that "old media" is not dead. Far from it, he maintains. All these new technologies- broadband, wireless, cheaper storage, on-demand viewing, interactivity- all allegedly actually play to "old media's" strengths.

Funny, but I could have sworn that all or most of these forces are precisely why "old media" is, well, old.

Take interactivity, for example. Old media can't do this. If a medium can, then by definition, it's not "old." Same with on-demand, or wireless.

The whole point, Chernin's protestation to the contrary, is that "new media" can do more rifle-shooting of segments. Such as cable, video on-demand, and itunes. In fact, it's because of this sort of competition, ultimately ending in any video content being available wirelessly from a url, that is causing conventional network TV to lose value faster than the contents of an unrefrigerated Good Humor truck on a midwestern August afternoon.

Perhaps it is due to companies like News Corp having CEOs like Mr. Chernin that their ilk have never been selected for inclusion into my equity portfolio's strategy of consistently-superior fundamental and technical companies. If the strategic thinking in his recent WSJ piece reflects News Corp's view of the world, I'd say Mr. Murdoch has overpaid his own management, and it's not going to do much to increase shareholder value at the company very consistently in the near future. Perhaps in the conference rooms of News Corp, this type of thinking counts as nimble, longterm strategy. I suspect that, in the rest of the competitive environment, it marks "old media," News Corp included, as badly out of position as new technologies gut the value of yesterday's communications titans.

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