Jon Miller, News Corp.: It’s All About Video For Us Right Now

Jon Miller, the chief digital officer for News Corporation (NSDQ: NWS), described his company’s digital strategy today as very “focused on video”, with a view that even properties that come from a print tradition should be producing more video content than they are today.
“I actually think we’re entering the age of video now…some people think we’re already there but I think we’re just getting started,” he told an audience at the DLD digital media conference in Munich, Germany.
He predicted that digital video consumption will “rise for the next many years” as bandwidth to the home continues to grow, and new devices make it easier to consume more content than ever before.
News Corp. like many other TV producers, has long been preparing itself for a time when that TV content is watched on anything but a TV, with the launch of online video and apps for new screens like those of tablets and smartphones. “TV is no longer a device,” he said. “It is a concept, and people go where the best screen is.”
And rather than simply ramping up the amount of content that News Corp.’s video properties produce — they include broadcasters like Fox as well as the film studio 20th Century Fox — Miller says that it is turning to News Corp. businesses that are traditionally more tied with written content, in what sounds like a very decentralized, try-everything-and-see-what-works approach to the space.
“We’re producing everything across the board now,” said Miller. “[Because] we’re focused on video…we’re trying to move our print publications into video, too.” That includes training Wall Street Journal reporters to “take videos on their iPhones,” as well as write.
And gaming site IGN, which originally started life as a collection of titles reviewing games, is running a dedicated channel on Microsoft’s Xbox, as well as the YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) channel dedicated to gaming. “We won the bakeoff for the YouTube channel last year,” said Miller, referring to YouTube’s strategy to launch 100 new premium content channels covering a variety of interests.
He also noted that through IGN News Corp is once again looking at how it might develop its own gaming content — this is something that it had tried to do through its old subsidiary Fox Mobile, although that content division, including the production studios, was sold off last year to Jesta Digital. The company seems to be taking a more cautious approach than in the past: “We are putting our toe into the water with casual games,” said Miller. “Playing games is a bedrock so we want to learn and earn our way into that.”
Miller was interviewed on stage by DLD’s chairman, Yossi Vardi, who noted that he once worked with Miller for four years, and also that DLD had been trying to get Miller to speak at the event for the past three years.
These two hooks might be part of the reason why Miller was thrown quite a few softballs in the interview. In other words, no questions about how News Corp. can avoid another MySpace or Fox Mobile investment (both written off and sold off) in its search for the next big revenue stream.
Nor were there any questions at all about the best business models for delivering that new material: News Corp has been strong on paywalls for its written content so far — with paid subscriptions required for much of the Wall Street Journal and The Times in London — would Miller and News Corp consider extending that to more of its video content?
One area where Vardi did press Miller a bit was on the Megaupload closure and how content companies are going after the “little guy” in their pursuit of copyright protection. Aren’t you ashamed your industry is chasing small kids who want to have some fun, asked Vardi.
“I think you’re confusing us with the music industry. We don’t do that,” answered Miller. “What you’re getting at is what is the proper way to protect copyright….There has to be a way for freedoms to be respected and for copyright to be respected.”
That is an issue that has yet to find a definitive solution from many of Miller’s peers, and perhaps Miller himself. “The industry takes a while to embrace new technologies,” he said. “We’re doing it as an industry but it’s a different world.”
That world, in Miller’s view, has discounted content to almost nothing, in order to shift value to other parts of the ecosystem — a complaint often heard from those in the content industry in the face of juggernaut’s like Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google, which respectively are more interested in pushing hardware sales and advertising for their own business models, offering easy and cheap access to content as part of the deal for consumers.
“Distributors have different businesses now,” he explained. “It’s not just to make money on the content as before.” “[Those who make hardware, or sell advertising] would like to keep the value of content low.” He said that this will eventually need to get “rebalanced” in the future. Whether that means more moves to paid content, or more advertising initiatives — or even partnerships on devices — remains to be seen.