Will AllThingsD Secede From News Corp?

ATD’s Mossberg & Swisher: (Photo: Denise Truscello/WireImage; PRNewsFoto/Digitas/AP Images)

Yesterday, Wall Street Journal business editor Dennis Berman took to Twitter to trumpet the acquisition of respected Slate tech scribe Farhad Manjoo by the Wall Street Journal’s technology reporting team.

Big tech news: We are pleased to welcome Slate’s great tech columnist @fmanjoo, who is joining the Wall Street Journal. @WSJ
— Dennis K. Berman (@dkberman) September 4, 2013

For those in the tech media bubble, this was “big tech news,” but for everyone else, it paled in comparison to let’s say Microsoft’s $7.2B acquisition of Nokia’s phone/tablet biz or the Apple’s much-anticipated new iPhones skedded to bow September 10. What’s more, Mr. Berman is not prone to hyperbole, nor he is particularly active on Twitter…averaging less than a tweet a day. So why the unusually warm embrace?

Separately, The Journal’s technology beat’s éminence grise Walt Mossberg, a prolific Twitter user with a half million+ followers, welcomed his new young, goatee-less protege to the fold:

@fmanjoo @karaswisher @DonDodge @felixsalmon @JasonHirschhorn @allthingsd Welcome Farhad! I’m a fan, & know you’ll add lots to our coverage.
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) September 4, 2013

Some of the back story comes into focus from a JP Mangalindan-Dan Primack item in Fortune magazine, which resurfaced something Reuters broke last February: “AllThingsD nears split with Dow Jones.” The new of Manjoo’s hiring prompted the intrepid and occasionally irascible Felix Salmon to ratchet up the meme:

WSJ hiring @fmanjoo is a clear sign that the WSJ is preparing to part ways with @waltmossberg. Looks like News Corp is losing @allthingsd!
— felix salmon (@felixsalmon) September 4, 2013

This set off a flurry of activity in the Twitterstreams of tech cognoscentis everywhere:

@felixsalmon that had been highly likely ever since Thomson took over @fmanjoo @waltmossberg @allthingsd
— Edmund Lee (@edmundlee) September 4, 2013

@felixsalmon @JasonHirschhorn @fmanjoo @waltmossberg @allthingsd There is no replacing Walt. No one else compares, except @karaswisher
— Don Dodge (@DonDodge) September 4, 2013

Francine Hardaway weighed in:

@DonDodge @felixsalmon @JasonHirschhorn @fmanjoo @waltmossberg @allthingsd @karaswisher Can’t believe she’d stay if he went.
— francine hardaway (@hardaway) September 4, 2013

To which Ms. Swisher, with here 900K+ followers, replied:

@hardaway @DonDodge @felixsalmon @JasonHirschhorn @fmanjoo @waltmossberg @allthingsd on that, I will say categorically on the record: No.
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) September 4, 2013

The idea that Mr. Mossberg and Ms. Swisher could successfully extricate their esteemed tech media brand from Dow Jones and News Corp is tantalizing indeed. There is little precedent of which I’m aware in the mediasphere for such a secession. The only analogy I can think of is if Andrew Ross Sorkin’s “DealBook” broke away from The New York Times.

I do not have first-hand knowledge of the economics of either AllThingsD or DealBook, but I do know that ATD’s conferences are huge moneymakers for the franchise, and they alone could sustain it – with or without the heft of the Wall Street Journal behind it. I’d therefore find it hard to believe that The Journal, its parent Dow Jones, or its parent News Corp. would easily part with the AllThingsD franchise.  As Ms. Swisher noted during this latest Twitter flurry:

@felixsalmon @fmanjoo @waltmossberg @allthingsd News Corp. OWNS ATD brand, so they can’t lose it. Unless they misplace it with their keys
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) September 4, 2013

And if Mossberg-Swisher did prevail, they’d find themselves competing on the same plane with the likes of TechCrunch, PandoDaily, Mashable, BusinessInsider, GigaOm, The Verge, and too many others to mention. But then again, these are their competitors today.