Mossberg to Leave Wall Street Journal as AllThingsD Talks Fail

Walt Mossberg will end his two-decade tenure as the Wall Street Journal’s personal-technology columnist after failing to reach a deal to keep managing the All Things Digital conference and website.

Mossberg and journalist Kara Swisher, who both led the AllThingsD events and news outlet owned by Dow Jones & Co., won’t renew their contracts when they expire by the end of this year, according to a statement. In their absence, Dow Jones said it will expand its technology coverage and conference business.

Mossberg’s weekly technology column was a first-read for consumers deciding whether to buy the latest iPhone or upgrade computer software. The AllThingsD conference has been lucrative for the past decade, consistently selling out its limited 500-seat event every year with guests such as Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. (AAPL), Bill Gates of Microsoft Corp. and Rupert Murdoch of News Corp., the parent of Dow Jones.

Mossberg and Swisher have approached other media companies, including the New York Times, about a joint venture to create a similar conference under a new brand, according to three executives familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Tickets to AllThingsD’s most recent conference, at the end of May, cost $5,500 each, for a total of $2.75 million. The conference also takes sponsors -- such as Oracle Corp. (ORCL) and Sony Corp. -- which pay as much as $400,000 each, adding up to more revenue than ticket sales generate, according to two people with direct knowledge of the business.

Advertising Revenue

The website only brings in about $3 million to $4 million in annual ad revenue, most of it tied to deals that also run across Dow Jones’s other sites, such as wsj.com, one of the people said. As a stand-alone entity, AllThingsD.com would only generate about $1 million a year, the person said.

The company declined to comment on what will happen to the AllThingsD brand. AllThingsD recently added two new events -- one focused on media and another on the mobile industry -- in an effort to expand the franchise.

Dow Jones Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker said the publisher plans to expand the Wall Street Journal’s technology coverage and will extend its conference business to include an international event. He praised Mossberg’s contributions to the publication.

“I want to offer heartfelt thanks for more than 20 years of Personal Technology columns as well as his very fine reporting on national and international affairs in the years before he turned his attention to technology coverage,” Baker said in the statement.

News Corp. split off from Murdoch’s entertainment business, now called 21st Century Fox Inc., earlier this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Edmund Lee in New York at elee310@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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