News Corp. Chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch wasted little time putting his imprimatur on Dow Jones & Co., which News Corp. officially acquired Dec. 13 for $5.6 billion.
Several executives tied to the Bancroft regime are gone, succeeded by some of Murdoch's closest lieutenants. Murdoch himself is expected to play a hands-on role in refashioning the 126-year-old media company, which publishes The Wall Street Journal.
"This is obviously his Christmas train set, and he's going to lay each track and select each car," said Gene Dewitt, chairman of DeWitt Media Strategies, who has worked with AT&T, DuPont and General Motors Corp., among other major advertisers. "You can expect a lot of turmoil for a while, and he's going to keep it close to the vest. That's why he put in people whom he's worked with for decades."
Les Hinton, a 40-year News Corp. veteran, is the new CEO of Dow Jones, succeeding Richard Zannino, who stepped down upon completion of the sale.
L. Gordon Crovitz resigned as publisher of the Journal, exec VP of Dow Jones and president of its Consumer Media Group. He will write a column for the Journal. Robert Thomson, editor of the Times of London, which is owned by News Corp., succeeded Crovitz as publisher of the Journal.
An article in the Journal last month said Thomson wasn't expected to have oversight of the business side of the newspaper, as Crovitz did. The article went on to say that Murdoch himself is likely to play a major role in devising business strategy for Dow Jones' media properties. Dow Jones declined to comment on the Journal article or the management changes.
Dow Jones late last month named Paul Bascobert CMO of the Consumer Media Group, which includes the Journal and WSJ.com. Bascobert is responsible for growing circulation for the properties, which currently have a combined circulation of more than 2 million combined.
Ann Marks last month resigned as CMO of Dow Jones and senior VP-CMO of the consumer media group.
Murdoch is expected to make the Journal "newsier," with shorter articles. A plan is also in place to jettison the "Marketplace" section sometime in the first half of the year, according to The New York Times. In September the Journal will debut Pursuits, a monthly glossy magazine designed to attract luxury advertisers.
"Like the previous management, [Murdoch] is going to try and attract more consumer types of advertising, and one of the ways he can do that is to broaden the news coverage and make it more of a general interest newspaper," said John Morton, president of Morton Research and a veteran newspaper analyst. "The Journal's reputation is as a business and finance publication and to the extent that [broadening the editorial coverage] changes the newspaper's primary focus it might risk its reputation, which makes it so valuable in the first place."
One of the first decisions of the new management regime at Dow Jones will be a tough one: whether to drop WSJ.com's paid subscription model, which reportedly generates at least $50 million a year in revenue.
Ken Doctor, media analyst at research and advisory company Outsell Inc., said that eliminating the WSJ.com firewall "may get you five to 10 times more viewers [than the current 1 million subscribers], but the demographics will go down, making it a less efficient buy" for marketers.
In addition to the Journal and WSJ.com, Dow Jones owns Barron's, Factiva, MarketWatch and, in conjunction with Hearst Corp., SmartMoney.