It’s official, the Internet is about to emerge victorious from the battle for content supremacy
In case you didn’t notice it, you are at war – and reading this article is an act of aggression. That’s essentially the gist of one of Rupert Murdoch’s many pronouncements at the Leveson inquiry in the UK.
The inquiry was established following the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, and for the last two days the Australian-born media mogul has been the star witness/attraction.
In the course of his testimony, Murdoch has admitted that he should have shut the News of the World earlier (but that there was no cover-up involving him or his son James) and denied that he has ever been able to – or even tried to – exert undue influence over successive British prime ministers, from Margaret Thatcher to David Cameron.
Whether or not you believe his denials probably owes much to your degree of personal cynicism towards any situation where power and politics collide, but one Murdoch statement has an unquestionable ring of truth:
‘We’re dealing in a very complex world with disruptive technologies, and we’re suffering at the hand of those,’ he told the inquiry. ‘Every newspaper has had a very good run… [but] it’s coming to an end as a result of these disruptive technologies.
‘I think we will have both [Internet and print news] for quite a while, certainly ten years, some people say five. I’d be more inclined to say 20, but 20 means very small circulations.’
It’s a startling admission of near-certain defeat from the man who, love him or loathe him, has built one of the world’s great business empires on the back of the newspaper. And although you can bet that such a man will not go down fighting, his choice of words suggest that it is media evolution rather than revolution that will ultimately have proved decisive.
The ‘disruptive technologies’ he refers to are, of course, the Internet and its social media offspring. Online magazines like The Message are superseding their print antecedents by covering the same issues but offering universality of access. Which is why every word you choose to read online rather than in print is another wound inflicted on the medium Rupert Murdoch spearheads.
Yet by predicting that online (and social media) and print news content will co-exist for anywhere from five years to two decades brings to mind the time at the dawn of human history when Neanderthals and Homo sapiens co-existed before the latter ultimately forced the former into extinction.
Like Homo Sapiens, online and social media content is better placed to meet the challenges posed by the modern world, where immediacy of information and the desire to source news from a variety of trusted, personal sources has become paramount.
And like Neanderthals, newspapers are shortly fated to become museum pieces – fascinating curiosities that provide insight into a bygone era, but whose contemporary relevance is no more.
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