A small change in who sits where at News Ltd’s Melbourne subsidiary, the Herald and Weekly Times,
will go largely unnoticed, even in the gossip-prone world of
newspapers. But it has long-term ramifications for the punting public
and News’s bottom line.

Assistant editor (Saturday) Dan
McDonnell has moved into the hot seat at News Custom Publishing, taking
responsibility for in-paper magazines as well as NCP’s traditional
eclectic output of specialist programs, guides and books. Long-term HWT
stalwart Peter Coster moves into the editor’s chair at op-ed.

But
it’s the move by Coster’s predecessor, Matthew Pinkney, that should
spark interest. Pinkney is, according to editor-in-chief Peter
Blunden’s memo to staff, to explore “important online initiatives.”
Read: make a lot of money for News by creating and launching an online
fantasy football game based on Australian rules.

Fantasy
football is a big money-earner in Britain, and in the US is joined by
fantasy baseball, basketball and the rest. And it’s big bikkies for
the punters, too. One game running in Britain offers prizes of almost
$A500,000.

News CEO John Hartigan is well known for his attitude
to running the business: if you’re going to sit on the pot, either
micturate or get off. (Hartigan generally uses a more basic word than
“micturate”).

Rupert Murdoch has only recently given his full
blessing to the Brave New World of the internet. It’s Microsoft to a
sausage that on his recent visit to Australia he suggested his minions
here do the same.

They’ll set up and launch the Aussie rules
fantasy game in Melbourne and see how it plays out before considering
something similar with the grab-it-and-run codes in NSW and Queensland.