The Increasing Value of News

Sunday, May 6, 2007

It wasn't long ago that everyone was sure that news was becoming a free commodity, available on Web sites everywhere. The real money would be made from owning the most-frequently visited Web sites, which could sell ads off the traffic and drive consumers to products and other sites.

How things have changed! Suddenly Rupert Murdoch is offering $5 billion -- a big premium -- for the Wall Street Journal and its parent company, Dow Jones. Thomson, a big publisher of business information, has made a bid for Reuters, which supplies financial information to banks and brokerage houses, and news stories, photographs and video to media worldwide. And there were fresh reports that Microsoft had reopened talks with Yahoo about some collaboration involving their Internet search, advertising and Web portal operations.

And all this comes on the heels of Sam Zell's purchase of a Tribune Co. that, weeks earlier, it seemed nobody but a bunch of bottom-fishers wanted to buy.

Each of these deals has its own wrinkles and competitive angles. But they reflect the accelerating trend toward media consolidation on a global scale, not only within categories but among them. And they reflect a newfound recognition that, as sources of information increase exponentially and the Internet becomes a cacophony of voices that are difficult to evaluate, news that is timely, reliable, insightful and well packaged will actually increase in value, not decline.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company