Rupert Murdoch Said to Have Soured on Heat Street, News Corp.'s Dying Digital Upstart
The digital-media startup was a libertarian-leaning news and culture destination.
Around 4 p.m. on Thursday, the 14 or so employees of Heat Street, the year-old digital-media startup within Dow Jones, were told that their jobs would be eliminated. Heat Street, they were told and it was later announced, would be merged into the MarketWatch group, and the upstart publication would no longer exist as a stand-alone entity.
These employees are not expected to need new jobs, as most will be absorbed into other brands in the company's portfolio. Employees will likely have the option of taking a transfer or leaving the company with a nice severance. "I don't think anyone's going to be out on the street as a result of this," an individual with knowledge of the company told The Hollywood Reporter.
The news of Heat Street's demise was first reported by BuzzFeed, but it seemed almost inevitable after the two individuals most associated with launching and running the site — former Conservative member of Parliament Louise Mensch and digital-media executive Noah Kotch — moved on, with Mensch ultimately leaving the company and Kotch brought into 21st Century Fox to run digital for Fox News.
Perhaps more significantly for the fate of the site, Heat Street was supposed to be sold by News Corp. to Fox, but that arrangement fell through.
Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corp., was fond of Heat Street, according to a person with knowledge of the company, and wanted the sale to happen. But he soured on the site as Mensch drifted into far-fetched wonderings about Russian involvement in U.S. politics and became something of a hero to the fringe left. "I think his interest waned as the Louise thing got increasingly embarrassing," said the source.
"Sorry to hear this, but know @Marketwatch will be a GREAT place for @HeatStreet team," Mensch tweeted on Thursday. "So proud, thank @Newscorp for amazing opportunity." She did not respond to an email request for comment, and a phone call was not returned.
News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson was also a fan of Heat Street, which punched above its weight and drew a significant audience despite being short-staffed. But he ultimately did not intervene to save the site. Andy Robinson, a spokesman for Dow Jones, declined comment beyond the statement the company made Thursday. A rep for 21st Century Fox did not respond to a request for comment.
While digital turmoil and reorganization is nothing new in an industry hit hard by declines in advertising, it wasn't supposed to end like this for Heat Street. The site had been given time to grow and succeed and was seemingly making progress toward that end.