He’s derided them as “bot-infested badlands,” “dysfunctional and sometimes dystopian,” and platforms for “the fake, the faux and the fallacious.” On a recent earnings call, he called them “mephitic,” prompting his spokesman to tweet the definition: “foul smelling.”
No media executive has more tirelessly criticized Google and Facebook — and done so with such a colorful vocabulary — than News Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson. A top lieutenant of the billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Thomson uses alliterative attacks as part of a decade-long crusade to pressure Silicon Valley for a greater share of its advertising revenue.
Now, Thomson, 56, is taking his campaign against Facebook a step further: He wants the social media giant to pay publishers for their content, the same way a cable TV company pays Walt Disney Co. to carry ESPN. Once a lonely gadfly poking at tech giants like a modern Don Quixote, Thomson is now finding that other media executives publicly back his quest.
At a Recode conference last month, BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti agreed that Facebook should share more revenue generated by its News Feed with media outlets. On a recent earnings call, New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson expressed optimism that demand for quality news has created “the possibility of direct payment from distributors.” Martin Sorrell, CEO of advertising giant WPP Plc, said in January that he supported such a proposal.
“Too many publishers have been patsies,” Thomson said in an interview from News Corp.’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan, where he oversees the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Co. and the New York Post. “What you are seeing, at last, is more publishers are prepared to be more vocal and that eerie collective silence has been broken.”