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Google Buying Wall Street Journal? When Donkeys Fly!

For those that are following the thus far (and hopefully always) unsuccessful attempt by Rupert Murdoch to buy Dow Jones, publisher of the WSJ, here’s a Bloomberg piece (via SEW) that speculates that Google may be in hunt for the paper:

News Corp. may have opened the door for other bidders, including General Electric Co., owner of the CNBC news network, Haverty said. Washington Post Co., Gannett Co. and even Google Inc. may be interested, said Michael Chren, managing director of Allegiant Asset Management Co. in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

There are many people who were skeptical about the prospect of some of the Google deals that have come to pass (e.g., YouTube, DoubleClick). In each case I was not. But I would be totally struck dumb (as they used to say) if Google actually were to make a bid.

In this merger mania environment anything is possible I suppose but the culture of a traditional publisher and Google are not well suited to one another. DoubleClick and YouTube are Internet companies. There’s a cost structure and overhead that Google would acquire (not to mention other challenges) along with Dow Jones that are not in keeping with its internal cultural attitudes or goals.

As valuable a brand as the WSJ is and as valuable the information and assets that Dow Jones possesses, it’s just not a scalable asset in the Google sense. And to Google, scalability is everything. The other traditional media companies and publishers are much more likely acquirers if the Bancroft Family (which controls the voting shares) ultimately decides to sell. The other issue is that the $5+ billion price tag would be very rich even for Google.

I always could be wrong. But if two weeks from now we’re discussing the Google acquisition of Down Jones, Hell will have frozen over and monkeys and donkeys will be seen flying through the air.

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Greg Sterling is the founding principal of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm focused on online consumer and advertiser behavior and the relationship between the Internet and traditional media, with an emphasis on the local marketplace.

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