News Corp announces 97% drop in newspaper profits

News Corp has announced a 97 per cent slump in profits at its newspaper division, which publishes titles in the UK, Australia and the United States.

In its third quarter results, released this morning, the company said lower advertising revenues and a stronger US dollar had affected newspaper profitability.

The announcement coincides with news that Rupert Murdoch is looking to follow the example of the Wall Street Journal and charge for access to his newspapers’ websites within the next 12 months.

Newspaper operating profits in the first three months of 2009 were $7m (£4.6m), down 96.8 per cent on the $216m (£143m) achieved in the same period last year.

In the nine months from July to the end of March, the newspaper division made a $320m (£212m) operating profit, a decline of 37 per cent on the previous year’s figure of $505m (£335m).

News Corp said third-quarter advertising revenues at News International, which publishes The Sun, News of the World, The Times and the Sunday Times, were down 21 per cent on last year.

Marketing and production costs grew, although this was partly offset by an increase in circulation revenues due to cover price rises at all four UK titles.

Earlier this week, 2008 accounts filed at Companies House revealed growing losses at Times Newspapers and a decline in profitability at tabloid division News Group Newspapers.

Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, reported a similar increase in circulation revenues due to price increases, but a dip in advertising revenue.

Across all of News Corp, operating income in the first three months of 2009 fell 47 per cent year on year from $1.4bn (£927m) to $755m (£500m).

Murdoch said the company’s third quarter results reflected the continuing weakness of the global economy.

“Despite this tough environment, we have proven resilient in several key areas this quarter,” he said.

“Our cable network programming segment showed remarkable growth, led by the Fox News Channel which nearly doubled its operating income over the year ago quarter.”

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