Why Old Media’s Moguls Don’t Matter Anymore
8:07 am, April 29th | by Peter Lauria
Media moguls used to hold a special place among the power elite. Other captains of industry were forced to cozy up to them of their control of information — or because they wanted to befriend them for their access to celebrity. They were, as Time Warner’s current CEO Jeff Bewkes once said, “powerful personalities who created stars that fueled their power.”
But those days are long gone. As evidenced by Mogulite’s power grid rankings, the digital information and entertainment economy has essentially castrated the old media’s big swinging… well, you know.
Only one leader of an old line media company — News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch — cracks the top 50 on the power grid’s most influential moguls list. Murdoch’s position at No. 9 is a testament to his uncanny — or unsavory depending on your point of view — ability to influence politics here and abroad through his media properties. A big part of Murdoch’s ranking is owed to the fact that the chattering classes can’t get enough of him (he ranks 12th in terms of news buzz). He’s the Howard Stern of media moguls: his supporters love to talk about him; his detractors love to talk about him more.
After Murdoch, however, there are only six other media company bosses in the top 100: Howard Stringer (No. 55), Oprah Winfrey (No. 65), S.I. Newhouse (No. 74), Sumner Redstone (No. 80), Martha Stewart (No. 91), and Bob Iger (No. 97). Silvio Berlusconi and Michael Bloomberg rank No. 17 and No. 24, respectively, but that is owed more to their standing as political rather than media figures.
The fact that Iger, who lords over the world’s largest media company by market value as CEO of Disney, barely breaks into the top 100 speaks more to the impotence than power of old media. Bewkes, whose Time Warner used to be the world’s largest media company before he set about breaking it up, doesn’t clock in until No. 126. (check out our gallery to see where some of the media’s other moguls rank.)
So, what can these media moguls do to regain their swagger? In truth, not much. Innovation, both technological and creative, left them behind long ago. Kids coming out of college don’t aspire to work for Disney or NBC anymore. They want to work for Facebook or Zynga or start their own production company or make their own TV shows and upload them to YouTube or sell them to Netflix. Disaggregation killed the old media mogul. The best they can hope for now is to maintain relevance until it is time to retire and hand off the problems of old media to someone else.