Why the AllThingsD Brand ...



Every human being in the free world – and perhaps a few in the not-so-free world – know that Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher will leave AllThingsD at the end of the year to start a new media property.

The news release from Dow Jones merely served as a springboard into the story behind the story:

“… however, after discussions, both parties have decided not to renew the agreement when the contract expires at the end of this year.”

What exactly happens to the AllThingsD property and brand remains a topic of conjecture.

Paul Newman

Before tackling the brand question, I have to say it’s been “good TV” watching the relationship unravel. Journalists do like writing about their own. It reminds me of the inmates in “Cool Hand Luke” vicariously living through Paul Newman.

No, no and for the third time, no. I’m not saying that journalists are inmates (talk about career limiting). But the idea of making a run for it does resonate with most journalists, a bias that surfaces in the coverage.

Did Mossberg and Swisher go a step further and stick it to The Man, in this case Rupert Murdoch?

I don’t think so. Which brings us back to the brand question.

Mossberg and Swisher put their blood, sweat and tears – tears of joy from collecting roughly half of the conference proceeds which ran in the millions each year – in building a profitable media property with brand recognition. That’s what NewsCorp wanted, and they delivered.

That’s also why I’m not so sure about the prediction from my friend and colleague Tom Foremski:

“The name AllThingsD will likely be retired and not used by Dow Jones.”

Contrary to popular belief, the brand’s value transcends Walt and Kara. It’s a mistake to trivialize the halo effect from the Journal and  Dow Jones that benefits the AllThingsD property.

Observing from afar, it also seems fair to say that much of the heavy lifting – whether it be selling sponsorships or grinding out fresh journalism – came from others. This is a credit to the Mossberg/Swisher duo; they built a team to execute the plan. Certainly, their long-standing relationships with industry luminaries delivered cachet to the property and its conferences. Still, do you think they’re the only journalists that Bill Gates has on speed dial?

If there was ever a media property dependent on one or two individuals, it was the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. If you think AllThingsD’s six years of existence constitutes stability, consider that Johnny Carson’s run went for 30 years.  Everyone viewed his decision to retire as NBC’s version of Armageddon. How could NBC replace Johnny? The Tonight Show and Johnny were one and the same. Yet, NBC plopped Jay Leno into Johnny’s shoes and the Tonight Show franchise not only continued, but thrived. Now Leno’s 22-year reign is coming to an end with Jimmy Fallon waiting in the wings.

The point is, the AllThingsD brand has value minus Mr. Mossberg and Ms. Swisher. With media companies challenged to pick up the tab for the Friday jelly donuts, why throw out something of monetary worth?

If you carefully look at the chosen words in the Dow Jones news release and in the Mossberg/Swisher post on their looming departure, neither party closes the door on the AllThingsD brand. Once Mossberg and Swisher find their Daddy Warbucks, I suspect they’ll be back at the negotiating table. Just because the price NewsCorp attached to the name exceeded their budget doesn’t mean their new benefactor won’t pay up. If things don’t play out this way, the next likely scenario has the AllThingsD property continuing under the NewsCorp umbrella.

Regardless, I for one will continue to enjoy the view.

Note: If you enjoyed this post, you might check out “Clues Reveal How Mr. Bezos Will Guide the Washington Post.”




  • Tom Foremski

    Well argued but you didn’t take into consideration the internal politics of Wall Street Journal! Both outfits competed for resources and WSJ got them! What’s the point of keeping the brand, especially one that is so Swisher-ish!It certainly didn’t read like the WSJ and WSJ is a bigger brand so why confuse readers?

    • hoffman

      Hi Tom,

      You’re right. I am clueless about the internal politics at the Journal.

      But as for the value of keeping a brand that “doesn’t read like the WSJ,” I think that’s precisely point. A dual brand strategy can allow a company to grab greater market share even if there’s some overlap between each brand’s audience. One example that comes immediately to mind is Toyota with its Toyota brand and Lexus brand. To your point, Toyota allocates resources to each brand in alignment with each brand’s definition of success (still leveraging infrastructure across both brands in manufacturing). It seems possible that News Corp might rethink its treatment of the two brands more along this line. Who knows?

      Look, if I’m going to place a bet on whether AllThingsD survives based on my view or your view, the money goes with your view. You have much greater knowledge of the publishing/journalism business. My view comes from a simplistic underpinnning- struggling companies don’t throw away things of value.


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