The headline from Politico’s Dylan Byers: “Murdoch belittles the Huffington Post.” That judgment stems from the comments that News Corp.’s bigwig made today before the Leveson Inquiry, which is starting to sound more like the Leveson Seminar on Newspaper Business and Ethics. In an exchange with Lord Justice Leveson on the money-making potential of news operations, Murdoch launched into a quick analysis of a popular media brand:
Oh ... I think everybody’s doing it for money, including the bloggers. They’re trying to sell advertising, they’re trying to get a bigger audience. You get a thing like the Huffington Post, which started as pretty much a political pamphlet with advertising and broadened itself quite cleverly, but mainly just stealing stories from existing newspapers. They now have a few reporters, and blogs from individual people, but it’s a very big thing here, they have a British edition as well as an American edition. And I don’t believe that they’re making a profit yet, but they’re read by many millions of people.
So where’s the belittlement here? Let’s break down Murdoch’s endorsement of the Huffington Post:
1) Statement: “started as pretty much a political pamphlet with advertising and broadened itself quite cleverly.”
Verdict: Unmitigated compliment.
2) Statement: “mainly just stealing stories from existing newspapers.”
Verdict: Neutral. Granted that this sounds a bit derisive. But consider Murdoch’s DOB: March 11, 1931. He became a newspaper executive in the 1950s, back before he’d even been called a “moth-eaten kangaroo,” let alone grappled with the worlds of linking and aggregation.
3) Statement: “They now have a few reporters...”
Verdict: That assessment technically understates the number of reporters at the Huffington Post, which has in excess of 40 such people. Which is, to a guy like Murdoch, “a few,” max. Try the News Corp. Annual Report: The guy presides over 51,000 employees. It’s all relative with a mogul like him.
Ruling: No belittlement whatsoever.