News Corp. Digital Chief: ‘Cement’s Not Dry on Making the Internet Pay’

News Corp. Digital Chief Jon Miller promises “rock ‘n’ roll” MySpace relaunch and lauds Facebook and Netflix for New Media mojo


The digital revolution is raging, but will it pay?

The internet has led to seismic changes in distribution and content, but it hasn’t supported real corporate growth, Jon Miller, News Corp.’s chief digital officer, said at TheGrill on Tuesday morning.

“In the internet business, the amount of sustained companies are not that many, and this scares me. In the era of broadband and mobile, there are huge winners but very few overall sustaining companies,” Miller said.

Yet Miller said News Corp. was committed to forging digital revenue streams and working with Silicon Valley players to form mutually beneficial partnerships — be they through recent rental pacts with Apple TV or an October relaunch of the company’s faltering social network site MySpace.

“We’re in a posture of engagement. These terms of trade are going to get worked out, we want to engage and figure stuff out,” Miller said in reference to the company’s controversial decision to get on board with Apple TV. (Photograph by Jonathan Alcorn)

Key to this detente is getting tech companies to recognize the value of premium content — something Miller believes companies such as Apple see as essential to selling mobile devices.

“There are different cultures, media and technology — the real difference is that the media industry works on a basis of ‘I’m OK, you’re OK … we have ‘Avatar,’ you have ‘Alice in Wonderland,’" Miller said. “With tech companies, they think, ‘I’m OK, you’re dead. ‘ They think in terms of platform wars.”

Miller thinks it's important that these media-company confrontations yield multiple victors.

“Multiple platforms serve to keep value of content up,” Miller said. “Really good platforms need premium content. With cloud lockers and so on, we can create a secure environment and have the ability to get to new customers around the world. That could mean hundreds of millions, if not billions of new customers.”

Yet these emerging platforms have led to a power shift. With Netflix’s streaming service and video-on-demand services, consumers can pick and choose what they want to watch and even how much they’re willing to pay for it. That’s been enormously disruptive to media companies’ bottom lines, he said.

“The internet tends toward unbundling, and that has been a healthy model [for media companies]. This is what’s going to play out this year and next year, but the cement's not dry yet. This hasn't been figured out yet, and it’s going to get figured out.".

One thing that News Corp. is committed to figuring out is the atrophying social networking site MySpace. Miller was bullish that the October relaunch would allow MySpace to recapture some of the heat its lots to Facebook.

“This is a full-on relaunch, and it’s a full swing of the bat, and that’s what you have to do,” Miller said. “It’s exciting, and its very different. It’s going to jar some people, and its much more back to its roots. It’s rock 'n’ roll. It’s not fascist, it’s libertarian.”

Miller believes that MySpace’s chief competitor, Facebook, also represents exciting opportunities for News Corp. content, even though the company has not fully embraced the possibilities.

“Facbeook hasn’t loved Madison Avenue. i think over time they will as part of their company’s maturation,” Miller said. “They’re saying we’re not a curator … but that’s a big deal, because with such a multitude of content, all that curation matters.”

Miller also extended the olive branch to another disrupter — subscription rental giant Netflix. He lauded the company by saying it had figured out how to make the new digital age pay, though he indicated that he hoped that Netflix would embrace some alternate revenue streams such as advertising.

He also predicted the rest of Hollywood would eventually embrace Netflix and it streaming service.

“People have a way of warming to people with checkbooks,” Miller said.