Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Will Rupert's papers give content free as News goes to war?

It's all very well charging for content when your brand's flying high, but Murdoch's News Corporation is now in a pitched battle to restore a modicum of lustre to both it's brands and the founder's family name.

As family members and a former executive appear contrite before a UK Parliamentary Committee, one thing they have on their side is plenty of outlets through which to pitch their side of the story. But some of their most respected mastheads are already restricting content to paid-up subscribers only - think Wall Street Journal and The Times, both of which you want in your corner when your stock has dropped nearly 20% in a little under a week and your reputation possibly by even more.

While it's likely that the Murdoch clan members and even some senior executives were unaware of the extent of the scandalous actions of a few journalists, the issue for News Corporation is that somehow the organisational culture, particularly on the UK's notorious tabloids, at worst encouraged executives to turn a blind eye to phone hacking and other practices or, at best, allowed individuals to run the risk of causing serious reputational damage through lack of checks and balances.

As News Corporation emerges from the immediate crisis, it will do well to remember that brand and reputation start from within organisations. That's where the process of restoration must begin.

News Corporation is a house of brands, some of which, like the newspapers mentioned previously, will recover from this quite quickly - guilt by association won't last forever. Transparency in the change process via these media could play a significant role in the brand rebuild. A good start might be to maximise their audiences by dropping the subs for their online coverage.

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