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News Corp plans changes for Dow Jones as profits rise

LONDON - The Wall Street Journal could dump subscription charges for its website, as Rupert Murdoch outlines plans for Dow Jones and hits back at criticisms levelled at him, which he said were normally only reserved for 'genocidal tyrants'.

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The News Corporation chairman and CEO made his comments about the future of Dow Jones as the media giant unveiled a fourth quarter profit rise of 4.5% to $890m (£437m), despite experiencing falls in revenue at the media giant's 20th Century Fox film division.

The results announcement, which follows the $5.6bn capture of Dow Jones & Company at the beginning of the month, was used by Murdoch to set out future plans for The Wall Street Journal, including the possibility of shelving subscription fees for the newspaper's digital assets.

In a statement, Murdoch said he was working closely with Dow Jones executives to explore the possibility of making WSJ.com, which is one of America's most profitable subscription business news websites, entirely free.

The Wall Street Journal has been one of a handful of success stories, in terms of charging for a subscription fee for its content. Rival website FT.com also charges; however, this has limited the number of users accessing its website.

Under the proposals, any lost subscription revenues could be recouped by a massive increase in online ads, backed by a huge expansion in readership. According to Murdoch, "It would be an expensive thing to do in the short term [but] in the long term, it may be a wonderful thing to do."

Murdoch also hit back at recent media criticism of News Corp's pursuit of Dow Jones & Company, claiming he had received "criticism normally levelled against a genocidal tyrant".

The News Corp boss has been heavily criticised in the US press following his capture of Dow Jones & Company, with US presidential candidate John Edwards calling for Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to reject any campaign donations offered from News Corp executives.

In a further broadside, former US President Bill Clinton told the Huffington Post that News Corp's capture of Dow Jones & Company should be subject to an anti-trust law investigation.

Murdoch added he would have walked away from talks with Dow Jones if he had not been "certain the company was such a perfect fit for News Corp".

However, Murdoch has been clear in his intentions for Dow Jones, stating "it should not be separated from News Corp", outlining a $50m-plus cost cutting programme for when the acquisition is completed later this year.

News Corp has also said it planned to invest heavily in Dow Jones' European and Asian businesses, stating it had "no firing plans", but was looking to hire staff immediately.

News Corp said its fourth-quarter net income rose to $890m from $852m, boosted by the performance of Fox News, where operating income was up 46%, with subscriber numbers rising at Sky Italia. Operating profit was up 18% to $1.2bn and revenues were up 8.6% to $7.37bn.

Its newspaper business, which includes The Times and the Australian, saw operating income rise 19.4%. Newspaper revenue was overall up 13% to $1.2bn.

At Fox Interactive Media, which includes MySpace, revenues doubled to $183m. In the coming year, revenues at MySpace are expected to reach as much as $800m, with Fox Interactive overall set to hit $1bn.

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