Revenues fall despite digital boost at Murdoch’s News Corp

Wall Street Journal continues to add online subscribers, but advertising declines hit overall revenues

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has increased profits despite taking a hit from pandemic disruption and offloading fringe businesses. 

The owner of News UK, which publishes the Sun and the Times, posted a 21pc rise in profits to $268m (£203m) for the three months to September compared with the same period last year.

The increase was driven by record first quarters from financial publisher Dow Jones and Move, the unit that owns US property website 

Revenues fell by a tenth to $2.1bn over the period following a $200m blow from the sale of advertising and data business News America Marketing in March.

News Corp also suffered from “continued weakness in the advertising market”, which was made worse by the pandemic, and a $29m knock from local newspapers in Australia, some of which closed or moved online.

News Media division revenues slid more than a third to $280m, with News UK and News Corp Australia falling 8pc and 20pc respectively. 

However, rising numbers of digital subscribers, cover price increases and favourable currency movements helped counter a Covid-induced slide in UK newspaper sales. 

The Times and Sunday Times, which moved behind an online pay wall a decade ago, increased digital subscribers from 312,000 last September to 337,000.

Meanwhile, the Sun bolstered the number of new website visitors by 9pc to 140m in September. It scrapped a paywall five years ago. 

News Corp said digital revenues now counted for 28pc of its News Media arm, up from 19pc. 

Chief executive Robert Thomson said the digital landscape was “changing fundamentally” and “the principle of a premium for premium content is now recognised”. 

Dow Jones’ circulation and subscription revenues rose by 8pc, or $22m, in the quarter, with subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal up almost a fifth to an average of 3.1m. 

Book publishing revenues also pushed 13pc higher to $53m following the success of a string of titles, including The Order by Daniel Silva and How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps by Ben Shapiro.