'All out war' beckons with New York Times as WSJ.com might go free

“It’s Forward Into Battle!” That’s how Newsweek describes the impending battle between the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, once Rupert Murdoch is legally owner of the financial daily.

There are all sorts of predictions about what will happen, particularly how Murdoch might change the Wall Street Journal, And what the New York Times will do to meet the challenge. Newsweek, at least, predicts ‘all-out war”.

Others don’t go quite so far, but there is agreement that Murdoch has lots of ideas for the Wall Street Journal once he takes over.

If he accomplishes them all, he will create, with the help of soon-to-be-launched Fox Business Network, a journalistic juggernaut whose influence, will range far beyond the world of financial news and information.

‘Murdoch thinks The Times is vulnerable,’a long-time senior executive confided to the Los Angles Times.

Murdoch has already signaled he will beef up editorial coverage in the Wall Street Journal, adding perhaps at least four more pages, hiring more staff in Europe and expanding the Journal’s coverage of global financial news.

Like many other American newspapers, the New York Times has lately been tightening its belt. Only last week it trimmed its page size in an effort to save newsprint, and money. In recent years it has closed many of its foreign bureaux.

But the biggest changes that Murdoch is expected to make are not in the newsroom. One possibility is that he will make all or most of the Journal’s website free. It means giving up nearly a million subscriptions at $79 (£39) a year, but would prove that Murdoch prizes readership – and the increased advertising revenue that the larger audience of a free web site would attract.

Ken Chandler, who worked for Murdoch for almost 30 years at the New York Post and Boston Herald, told the Los Angeles Times that he things one of Murdoch’s first first moves could be to cut the news-stand and subscription prices.

Some analysts believe the Times will have a big battle on its hands. The feeling is that the Sulzberger family, which largely owns the New York Times Company, may in the not too distant future, face the same problems – particularly unhappy shareholders – that led the Bancroft Family to finally give in and accept Rupert Murdoch’s offer for the Dow Jones flagship and its ancillary publications.

Those additional publications include 22 local newspapers, there are already reports that Murdoch is planning to put them up for sale as soon as the Wall Street Journal takeover is finalized. The expected asking price? Around $660 million.

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