Rup/ert Murd/och delays plans to charge for online news

Rup/ert Murd/och warned that his plans to charge readers of News Corporation’s newspaper websites by the end of next June could be delayed.

05 Nov 2009

Rup/ert Murd/och, the chairman of News Corp, gave no reason for delaying plans to charges online readers of his newspaper websites.
Mr Murd/och, chairman of the media conglomerate whose British newspapers include the Sunday Times and the Sun, said that he “can’t promise” that he’ll meet his own deadline.

The media magnate did not give a reason for the delay, but said that “we are all working very hard” on delivering the pay solution, and that it remains a “work in progress”.

The surprise answer came during a conference call to discuss the company’s first-quarter results, not least the dramatic fall in operating income in its newspaper division, falling to $25m in the three months to September from $134m in the same period a year ago.

In the UK, News International, publisher of The Times and the Sun among others, saw advertising sales fall by 15pc and circulation sales by 6pc.

Even at the flagship Wall Street Journal advertising fell, although the slump here was offset by an increase in price at the business newspaper which Mr Murdoch said remains “barely profitable”.

It is known that work is in progress for a separate website for the Sunday Times – whose content is currently housed on The Times’ site – which was likely to be the test-bed for his charging mechanism, details of which remain scant.

In television, the picture was similar, with the division making operating income of $38m in the first quarter, against $83m in the same period last year.

Overall, News Corp’s sales fell by 4.2pc to $7.2bn, while net profit rose 11pc to $571m largely as a result of cost-cutting in News Corp’s various operating businesses and better-than-expected contributions from its cable networks and film studios. Pre-tax profits rose from $717m lat time to $842m.