MORE MURDOCH CRACKS APPEAR ASTITLES FOR SALERUMOURS PERSIST

As doubts linger about the future of Rupert Murdoch’s Times titles, the media mogul’s empire is perhaps not as thoroughly modern as it should be. Slog research suggests that Newscorp is closer to the edge than many realise.

In 2009, the Slog’s mother-site nby ran a piece pointing out Rupert Murdoch’s near-total dependence now on the English Premiership to keep him afloat. We’ve also pointed out,on several occasions since, the glaringly obvious fact that the Premier League is based on a business plan one could summarise as Sugar Daddies Meet Madmen On Thin Ice.

Without the Premier, Newscorp would’ve made a loss last year. Even with it, bonuses were more rare than honest bankers. And while apologists (me for one) have been arguing that once again Old Roop could well be ahead of the game with his ideas for online multi-content, in other areas Newscorp insiders are talking of an approach that looks increasingly like panic.

It’s possible, of course, that the old bugger is losing his marbles. Possible, but unlikely. More believable is the idea that he lacks confidence in the current generation of managers across his sprawling (but ill-defended) empire. This is allegedly evident at Myspace, where the multinational mogul has stepped in after the networking site lost both users and income….to be precise, a third of the former, and $140 million of the latter. Disappointing both members and partners isn’t good for business: even Lord Mandelson knows that.

A Premiership club going belly-up would represent a nightmare for Rupert Murdoch. Portsmouth has had four owners in less than a year, and owes the Inland Revenue even more money than Didier Drogba has earned in the same year. Liverpool’s debt gets bigger as its season goes from bad to worse, and the gargoyles in charge of Manchester United are clearly carpet-baggers whose goose isn’t laying enough golden eggs to bail out the Glazer family mortgage.

Meanwhile, up Wapping there is much gloom. Freelancers will tell you that there are no fees to be had – except for major, cast-iron scoops – and many an inhouse hack bears woeful stories of having overloaded the personal debt in the good old days.

All of which makes the Digger’s ultimate gamble one that could excavate a grave of Egyptian proportions for Newscorp. This remains his solid disbelief in microcharging, and desire to press ahead with ‘Footitsnews’ on the internet. After our last column on this subject, Slogger’s Roost was inundated with green-ink correspondence from Webbygeeks talking about things that sounded clever, but made little sense to the editor’s addled cerebrum. My opinion right now is that most tecchies don’t know what they’re talking about – but just maybe on this occasion, the Antipodean Culture-Strangler doesn’t either.

Always remember the key thing with Murdoch: come equipped with silver bullets, a stake,two crucifixes and a copy of the K’aran. Nothing less will do. When it comes to rumours of his death, he leaves Mark Twain trailing way behind.