In 1995 I tried (for about ten minutes) to persuade Rupert Murdoch to give the keynote speech at the Internet World London conference that year. In my address book (which is a huge and largely pointless guide to what people’s telephone numbers used to be) I’ve still got direct lines for his various PAs. Of course, that’s as close as I got to Mr Murdoch back then. I might as well have been asking him to address ‘Fruit World’ or ‘Top Hat Expo’… You see, Murdoch’s purchase of pioneering ISP Delphi the year before fooled me into thinking that he might actually be interested in the Internet. He wasn’t.
He is now, though. In a speech to a newspaper industry conference in the US Wednesday he called the Internet “a fast-developing reality we should grasp” and said “The trends are against us… so unless we awaken to these changes, which are quite different to those of five or six years ago, we will, as an industry, be relegated to the status of also-rans.” So what’s happened to finally get Mr. Murdoch’s attention? Well, it could be the unstoppable expansion of the blogosphere or the arrival of RSS as a serious news distribution platform or – more likely – it could be the research he’s commissioned that shows only 8% of 18-34s find newspapers useful. Ouch. The Newspaper publishers have got the fear because of the real possibility that their almost universal gradual decline (at least in Western economies) might turn into a collapse as the news-reading public ages. Could the newspapers turn out to be the Internet’s first real Old Media victim?