It’s bad news for Rupert Murdoch, with profits at his media empire down 6 per cent and readers deserting its Australian mastheads.
Revenues at News Corp were down a full 9 per cent – something the company pinned on “a sluggish Australian economy and uncharacteristic softness in book publishing”. According to Roy Morgan, readership has also declined at its Australian mastheads, with the total cross-platform audience for the Daily Telegraph declining 15.5 per cent in the year to December 2019 and The Australian and the Herald Sun seeing drops of 4.3 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively.
However, foreign currency fluctuations accounted for most of the drop outside of News Corp’s Australian outpost, and CEO Robert Thomson is holding out hope that a turnaround is on its way.
“We expect improvement in the second half as real estate markets show signs of gradual recovery, Dow Jones benefits from new content licensing arrangements and higher digital subscribers, and HarperCollins capitalises on an exciting slate of new releases,” Mr Thomson said.
News Corp also took “steps on the path towards simplification” by flogging Unruly – its ad tech business – and beginning negotiations to do the same with News America Marketing.
At the same time, Dow Jones subscriptions reached a record 3.5 million, including 2 million digital-only subscribers at The Wall Street Journal. News Corp is also expecting to benefit from a deal with Facebook to feature headlines from the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones media properties.
“We are seeing significant progress in our long battle for equitable treatment from the dominant tech platforms, and our deals with Apple and Facebook are beginning to yield financial dividends,” Mr Thomson said.