News Corp posts 26pc jump in digital growth
News Corp has signed up more digital subscribers in an era of “fake news” with the group’s Australian newspapers recording a 26 per cent jump in the most recent quarter.
The group reported 389,600 digital subscribers in the three months to December 31, from 309,200 in the same period a year ago, as readers showed renewed commitment and publishers attracted new subscribers.
“It is certainly in the interests of our shareholders that there be a digital reorientation towards quality and integrity, and that more people are encouraged to pay for professional journalism,” News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said.
“There is a social and commercial value to journalism, but that value needs to be valued by the digital publishing platforms. The bot-infested badlands are hardly a safe space for advertisers, whose brands are being tarnished by association with the extreme, the violent and the repulsive.”
At The Australian, digital sales account for more than half of total paid sales after a pick-up in growth last year pushed sales past the 100,000 mark.
“The Australian continued to grow digital subscribers, crossing the 100,000 mark for the first time,” Mr Thomson said on a call with analysts. “Significantly, more than 50 per cent of its paid weekday volume is now digital.”
News Corp Australia’s gain in digital subscribers continues a period of solid growth enjoyed by the group’s British and US titles in the second quarter amid continued interest in the new administration of President Donald Trump and the proliferation of “fake news”.
The Wall Street Journal posted a 29 per cent increase in digitalonly subscribers to approximately 1.4 million.
Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is nearing a short-term goal of 3 million total subscribers, with 2.8 million subscribers to the unit’s consumer products in the quarter. The Times and Sunday Times continued to gain market share, with digital subscribers up 20 per cent versus the prior year.
Digital revenues now represent 29 per cent of News and Information Services segment revenues, compared with 26 per cent in the prior year.
Overall, News Corp reported a 3 per cent increase in revenue in the quarter, driven by sustained digital growth, positive currency fluctuations and the digital real estate business.
For the three months ended December 21, the company posted revenue of $US2.18 billion ($2.8bn), compared to $US2.12bn in the prior corresponding period. The revenue gain was also boosted by the acquisitions of Australian Regional Media and Australian News Channel, operator of the Sky News channels, as well a $US47 million positive impact from foreign currency fluctuations.
The company recorded a net loss of $US66m compared with a loss of $US219m in the same period a year earlier, and a loss of US14c a share, compared with a loss of US50c a share in the prior year.
The revenue was slightly ahead of estimates from analysts polled by Bloomberg at $US2.13bn. Australian-listed shares in News Corp ended 0.6 per cent higher at $20.51.
The news and informationservices business, which accounts for just under twothirds of the company’s top line, reported a flat revenue of $US1.3bn.
“The robust first-half results highlight the virtue of our strategy to become increasingly digital and global, the discipline of our financial management, and our commitment to premium content and highquality, high-integrity news,” said Mr Thomson, noting that first-half revenues were up 4 per cent and profitability improved by 27 per cent.
The digital real estate business, the company’s main profit driver, reported a 21 per cent gain in revenue to $US292m, driven by continued traffic growth at REA Group’s realestate.com.au and Move’s realtor.com.