MySpace China, which would very much like to be as successful as the site of the same name in the United States, is a social-networking Web site. It started in April as a trial site. News Limited has handled this one very neatly by taking a bit of a back seat and allowing other companies, especially companies with good track records in China to make the running.
An important owner is China Broadband Capital Partners, an investment company founded by Edward Tian, the former head of China Netcom.
Thus 39 year old Wendi Deng that was will have her first chance documented chance to run part of the Murdoch empire. And, it could be argued, that by appointing Deng as an executive with management responsibility, Murdoch is also attempting to take a more hands on approach with MySpace China. This has some repercussion on his bid for Dow Jones, the parent company of The Wall Street Journal. At a fair bet he will get Dow Jones but one of the points being made
against him is that he has been too quick to cooperate with China’s Internet censorship to obtain the relatively fast launch of MySpace China.
Critics are saying that by choosing to set it up as a Chinese company that is majority owned by Chinese interests, the site has come to incorporate much heavier self-censorship and content controls than if it had chosen to operate from outside China’s borders. Well, yes. Perhaps the same critics will explain to eBay why it fell flat on its face trying to go it alone.
Seven of the Journal’s reporters sent a letter to Dow Jones shareholders in May accusing Murdoch of cozying up to the regime in the past to advance his business interests. Reporters do that sort of thing. As a reporter myself I know only too well how high indignation can run when the Internet is mentioned. Because, in the very end, what will kill newspapers will be the Internet. Therefore doing anything with this plaything of evil is, for print journalists, dancing with the devil.
An article about Wendi Deng by Eric Ellis was recently spiked by the Australian magazine Good Weekend. This is also providing ammunition to Murdoch’s opponents over The Wall Street Journal bid. The magazine is owned by Fairfax, in which Murdoch has a minority stake.
The article runs for 10,000 words and I have read it and cannot see why it was spiked except that it was very, very long. It kept well away from the more contentious parts of Wendi Deng’s life story.
Wendi Deng has made frequent trips to China since News Corp.’s acquisition of MySpace early in 2006 to lay the political and business groundwork to launch MySpace China. In a management role, she would be working alongside Luo Chuan, a former head of Microsoft’s MSN Internet service in China. It will not be an easy task as domestic players nearly always get the inside running. No major foreign Internet company has yet been able to make much headway, except Google and that only to a limited extent.
Since its April trial launch, MySpace China has been faulted as dull and criticized for its less than impressive Chinese name, which translates as ‘Befriend you, befriend me.’ If anyone can make it hum it will be Wendi Deng.