everyone should check out adam lashinsky’s timely piece on rupert murdoch’s new internet game – complete with strategy, players and even a newfound web platform called myspace. adam gets some great color around rupert’s rapid transformation to internet guy which is impressive. he’s making bold bets, like he’s supposed to. he and his execs even talk about the need to rapidly test and iterate. nobody can say old media doesnt get it anymore.
here’s my 2 cents on what i’d do if i were rupert…he mentions craigslist as a company he admires. rather than buying skype for billions or even AOL’s impressive properties, i would bet it all on craig. i would go offer the guy $1-2 billion right now. that’s clearly way ahead of his value so maybe he’d just consider selling. (course, craig would do this only if he could justify redeploying that money to help the world in a bigger way.)
assuming that craig wouldnt sell, i’d go after the same business opportunity of community classifieds. i believe this is the future of the newspaper business. now of course i’m biased as cofounder of tribe.net, which has spent three years focused on this opportunity. however, rupert has two assets i lacked at tribe. he has huge traffic with young urban america on myspace (which already has a rudimentary classifieds that appears popular even if the quality isnt there). and rupert’s got newspapers. i would work on using my newspapers to drive my online classifieds business. offer free liners (that’s the small text classifieds that use weird acronyms and are unreadable anyway) as an incentive to post online – ie. you get free newspaper placement for giving us the gift of your free online listing. maybe you can charge $5 but doesnt really matter. then i’d go for all color print classifieds for my cars and housing as that’s way better for consumers than bothering to go online – ie. a place the paper still wins.
i would also aggressively use my branded local papers to drive community.
i would also transform my papers to more of an about.com model where most of my editorial/writing staff are part timers and a lot of my content is coming from other sources – ie. drastically lower my cost of content creation while increasing community involvement.
i would turn my ad people into reps for local media, both offline and online. i’d use myspace as an anchor tenant to create critical mass in local online page views to sell locally – ie. i go to philly.com and anyone else with philadelphia specific traffic and sell it as a package. i bet that morrison and foster would pay a sky high cpm to buy just center city!
lets see…what else would i do…oh, how about using my fox tv network as an inducement to get people to start creating video blog content for me for free? i’d buy or create one of these companies like gnn (guerilla news network) and ask my audience (again through myspace) to start submitting video stories in a specified format of time length etc on various topics which could be posted through the site. i’d push the many to many media to and through all my outlets. i’d push my management to test 10 great ideas a month. if i did that at every property i might be testing 1000 ideas a month. not sure how yahoo or google would keep up with that.
a bit more on myspace…when we started tribe we went out and did a ton of focus groups (thanks to danah boyd!). we heard loud and clear that people were spending all their time on friendster but also that they found all their value on craigslist. they knew they’d be on CL in three years and doubted they’d even remember friendster. they found their life on CL. they played on friendster. friendster was a guilty pleasure. CL was pure utility. when asked ‘where do you go on the net to get stuff done?’ they answered ‘google, ebay craigslist’. and we heard…’$50B, $50B and small pvt company’. very eye opening. myspace does risk the same extinction as friendster if they fail to convert the hours of play to minutes of utility. that’s not to say that myspace may manage to retain their users through enabling great entertainment. but it will take a lot more than craig has to worry about.
so i will predict right here that if rupert and his team manage to create craigslist out of myspace they will have a massively valuable property. and i say good luck to rupert. he’s clearly having more fun than me!