Murdoch snaps up 'faithbook'

Rupert Murdoch has bought beliefnet, a faith and spirituality website. It's a move that bolsters his stable of celebrity gossip, sensationalism and page 3 'stunnas' with a virtual Talmud and much mention of shepherds.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
Beliefnet is a portal that includes interviews with celebrities and politicians, social networking tools, blogs, sacred text searches and views from preachers. Online groups include ‘Quaker discussion’ and ‘New perspectives on Paul’, which of course marks unusual territory for Rupert. The mogul runs media outlets like the Sun and Fox News with an approach that is famously closer to ‘take no prisoners’ than ‘turn the other cheek’. Indeed, his $5.6bn swoop for Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal, was hardly charitable.

But it’s not exactly a Damascene moment for Murdoch. Beliefnet claims to have 3m unique visitors a month and nearly 11m subscribers to a daily e-bulletin. And the faith market is growing. According to the Pew Internet Project, more than 82m Americans and 64% of internet users go online for faith-related matters. Fox reckons the market for religious books, DVDs and software is worth more than $8bn; and beliefnet would give Murdoch an online platform to distribute faith-based products from across News Corporation, including 20th Century Fox, Harper Collins's Christian Zondervan imprint, and HarperOne, which publishes religious and spirituality titles.

Murdoch continues to be eager to expand his digital presence, the one area of the media that has always caused him trouble. His last move into the sector was his 2005 purchase of MySpace for $580m, a site which at the time was being hailed by internet experts as ‘the way’. That was before Facebook, of course.

A notable feature of beliefnet, the Belief-O-Matic, is a questionnaire that helps people find which religion best defines them. One question asks whether there is only one God, a supreme force or multiple gods. As far as we can see at NewsCorp there has only ever been one god: mammon, which is probably how it should be.

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