John Simkin Posted March 14, 2006 Share Posted March 14, 2006 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1730279,00.html Owen Gibson, media correspondent Tuesday March 14, 2006 The Guardian Rupert Murdoch last night sounded the death knell for the era of the media baron, comparing today's internet pioneers with explorers such as Christopher Columbus and John Cabot and hailing the arrival of a "second great age of discovery". The News Corp media magnate nurtures a long-held distaste for "the establishment" but last night confided to one of the few clubs to which he does belong - The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers - that he may be among the last of a dying breed. "Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry - the editors, the chief executives and, let's face it, the proprietors," said Mr Murdoch, having flown into London from New York after celebrating his 75th birthday on Saturday. Far from mourning its passing, he evangelised about a digital future that would put that power in the hands of those already launching a blog every second, sharing photos and music online and downloading television programmes on demand. "A new generation of media consumers has risen demanding content delivered when they want it, how they want it, and very much as they want it," he said. Indicating he had little desire to slow down despite his advancing years, he told the 603-year-old guild that he was looking forward, not back. "It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy - not just companies but whole countries." The owner of Fox News added: "Never has the flow of information and ideas, of hard news and reasoned comment, been more important. The force of our democratic beliefs is a key weapon in the war against religious fanaticism and the terrorism it breeds." Refusing to reminisce over a career that saw him develop a global empire stretching from DirecTV and the New York Post in the US to Sky and the Sun in the UK via assets in South America, Asia and Australia, he declared: "I believe we are at the dawn of a golden age of information - an empire of new knowledge." But he combined his new-found enthusiasm for the digital future with a "change or die" message for the monolithic media empires of the 20th century. "Societies or companies that expect a glorious past to shield them from the forces of change driven by advancing technology will fail and fall," he warned. "That applies as much to my own, the media industry, as to every other business on the planet." Two hundred liverymen and freemen of the trade guild were joined by family and friends who then dined in Stationers' Hall, a Grade 1 listed building near St Paul's Cathedral in London. He had some words of hope for his industry peers buffeted by declining circulations, free titles and the internet. "I believe traditional newspapers have many years of life but, equally, I think in the future that newsprint and ink will be just one of many channels to our readers," he said, predicting a future in which "media becomes like fast food" with consumers watching news, sport and film clips as they travel, on mobile phones or handheld wireless devices. "Great journalism will always attract readers. The words, pictures and graphics that are the stuff of journalism have to be brilliantly packaged; they must feed the mind and move the heart," he enthused. Following its chairman's change of heart, News Corp has splashed out close to $1bn (£578m) on internet investments. Most tellingly, the company spent $400m on MySpace.com, the social networking phenomenon that has proved hugely popular with 35m regular users on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr Murdoch has undergone a Damascene conversion, admitting he hugely underestimated the power of the web. He said last night: "It is a creative, destructive technology that is still in its infancy, yet breaking and remaking everything in its path. We are all on a journey, not just the privileged few, and technology will take us to a destination that is defined by the limits of our creativity, our confidence and our courage." Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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