Murdoch: Plan to charge for online news content delayed

News Corp chairperson and chief executive Rupert Murdoch said on Wednesday that a plan to begin charging readers of his newspapers online may be delayed.

Murdoch had previously outlined plans to erect pay walls around his vast newspaper empire by the end of News Corp’s current fiscal year in June, but he indicated that was now unlikely.

“We are working all very, very hard at this but I wouldn’t promise that we’re going to meet that date,” he told reporters in a conference call after releasing News Corp’s first-quarter results.

Asked what was causing the delay, he said: “Everything.”

“It’s a work in progress and there’s a huge amount of work going on not just with our sites but with other people,” Murdoch said.

The Wall Street Journal is currently the only newspaper in the News Corp group to charge readers for access to all of its content. Other News Corp properties include the Australian, the New York Post and the Times of London.

A slump in newspaper revenue was offset in the first quarter by strong results from News Corp’s movie, cable television and book publishing divisions as the company posted an 11% rise in quarterly net profit.

Murdoch welcomed what he called “exceptionally strong results” despite “continued macro-economic challenges”.

“The strategic steps we took last year to ensure stability during the downturn have proven successful, with significant cost reductions offsetting much of the revenue declines in our television and newspapers and information services segments,” Murdoch said.

“The economies in which we do business are clearly in better shape than they were a year ago, and we have further positioned our operations to take advantage of the improvements we are seeing globally,” he said.

Newspaper division revenue declined 81% to $25-million.

Newspapers are struggling with plunging print advertising revenue, steadily declining circulation and the migration of readers to free news online, and Murdoch has announced plans to start charging online readers.—AFP

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