News Corp revenues in the last quarter fell by 3%, from $2.26bn in the fourth quarter last year to $2.19bn, while the news division whose mastheads include The New York Post, The Times and The Australian reported a decline in sales of 6%.
To add insult to injury, earlier this week Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox received a firm “no,” from media giant Time Warner, despite offering a $76 billion buyout for the company which owns the Harry Potter franchise and HBO among others.
In a neat piece of cosmic positioning, Rupert Murdoch is now in Time Warner’s shoes; the subject of an unsolicited buyout scheme – although he is arguably dealing with a less realistic buyer.
Let’s Own The News, a British crowdfunding campaign founded by Laurie Fitzjohn, is hoping to raise 100 million pounds to acquire the Times and Sunday Times.
“80% of the national newspapers we read are controlled by five families, this is not a free press and it undermines our democracy,” the proposal says.
“Our vote is worth little if a few people control the information we read.”
However Steve Buttry, author of The Buttry Diary blog and digital transformation expert, is not so sure that the campaign is foolproof. He told the World Editor’s Forum, “I think crowdfunding has great potential for journalism that hasn’t been fully explored…[but] to make the leap to a hundred million pounds to buy The Times and The Sunday Times, you know, is a huge leap and I’m not sure they’ve got the value right.”
“I would have more optimism about trying to crowd-fund five million pounds to buy a small community based newspaper that people could make the point that, “This thing is clearly going downhill, it’s too important to the community, let’s save it.”
Buttry however believes that a crowdfunding campaign of this sort is a sign of a positive relationship between readers and their papers. He said, “It means that we recognize that we do have value to the people, that it’s not just journalists wringing their hands and saying, “Oh my goodness, what’s happening to the newspapers? How will democracies function without newspapers?””
“There is both some fondness for newspapers and what we do and some recognition in the public of the importance of newspapers to a functioning democracy that people care and will contribute. Whether they’ll contribute a hundred million [pounds], that’s a whole different question,” he said.
“And then another aspect of this, that is particular to Rupert Murdoch, is the sense that he has degraded the quality of some of the newspapers that he has bought and the question of you know, well gee, if the public owned it we could restore it to it’s former greatness,” Buttry said.