National Press Club

Murdoch sees iPad as future of newspapers

April 7, 2010 | By Gil Klein | gilbert.klein@yahoo.com

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As the Wall Street Journal’s iPad app appeared on the screen behind him, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch told a packed ballroom audience that the technology could mean “the saving of newspapers.”

“I got a glimpse of the future this weekend with the introduction of the iPad,” said Murdoch, one of the nation’s leading news entrepreneurs whose holdings include the Wall Street Journal and the Fox Broadcasting Co. “It has brought together all forms of media.”

In an April 6 interview on “The Kalb Report,” Murdoch showed how users of the Apple device could see the printed version of the Wall Street Journal presented electronically and how they could go back seven days to see entire issues of the newspaper. He was particularly impressed with how users could click on a picture and watch it come to life as a video presentation.

"We update the front page every half hour during the day,” he said. “Every word of the Wall Street Journal is there.”

Tens of thousands of people who bought the first iPads over the weekend checked out the Wall Street Journal feature, he said.

The Journal will be available on the iPad for a $4-per-week subscription price – and will be free to anyone with a print subscription. At the same time, he said, the Journal is going to “stop Google and Microsoft from taking our stories for nothing.”

Newspapers, he said, “have to stand up to” the online companies to end their free use of the content the news companies produce. “Let them do their own reporting,” he said.

When Kalb read him a poll that showed only a small percentage of people would pay for news on the Internet, Murdoch responded, “I think if people have no place else to go, they will pay for – if it’s not too much money.”

He said the printed version of newspapers will be around for a long time. But newspapers will be transitioning to these new electronic versions that have the capability of protecting a newspaper’s integrity while reducing printing and transportation costs.

“If you have a great brand name and trust, and if you maintain it, people will be attracted to it,” he said.

Often criticized for running news companies that have a conservative bias, Murdoch insisted the other network news operations were manned entirely by Democrats while Fox News had both Republicans and Democrats. However, when pressed, he could not name a Democrat in a major news position until someone from the company shouted out a name from the audience.

Asked about the apparent closeness between Fox News and the Tea Party movement, Murdoch said, "No. I don't think we should be supporting the Tea Party or any other party."

Fox commentator Sean Hannity “is very good and an extremely sincere, open Catholic conservative,” Murdoch said. “No one has said he is anything more than comment from one man.”

“I’m not saying I agree with Mr. Hannity or Bill O’Reilly,” he said, describing his own politics as “sometimes radical.” He said he sees Sarah Palin as a commentator, not a politician. “I know whenever we use Palin, the ratings leap. We’re not adverse to high ratings.”