News Corp., Wall Street Journal owner, reports 3% lower revenue

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s publishing company News Corp. swung to a profit in its fiscal first quarter -- its first financial reporting period as a stand-alone company -- but revenue slipped nearly 3%.

News Corp. separated from the more profitable television and film assets, which became a separate company known as 21st Century Fox, on June 30.

Murdoch’s publishing company faces long-term challenges as advertisers flock to online platforms, and as its vast stable of newspapers in Australia continues to get clobbered by a weak economy.

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For the quarter ended Sept. 30, News Corp. reported net income of $38 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $83 million, or a loss of 16 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Excluding some one-time items, profit came in at 3 cents a share -- a notch above analysts’ estimates.

News Corp. includes the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Australian, the Times of London, HarperCollins book publishing and an educational materials division called Amplify. The company generated $2.07 billion in revenue in the quarter, a nearly 3% decline from $2.13 billion in the prior year period.

Chief Executive Robert Thomson told Wall Street and Australian financial analysts on a conference call Monday that the company intends to pioneer the business of providing information to readers on digital platforms, including tablets and smartphones.

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News Corp., he said, has made a goal of generating more revenue from subscriptions in an effort to become less reliant on advertising.

For the quarter, the news and information services segment generated $1.5 billion, a decline of 10%, from the previous year’s $1.7 billion. Book publishing revenue tumbled 7% to $328 million.

Advertising at the Wall Street Journal was flat, Thomson said. However, readership on the WSJ mobile application during the month of September was up 59% compared with September 2012.

“We clearly are seeing a mass migration in mass media,” Thomson said.

During the quarter, the company sold its Dow Jones Local Media Group, a chain of small newspapers, and HarperCollins’ live events business. The company got a boost from the inclusion of earnings from its cable television network in Australia.

The company spent $17 million during the quarter in costs related to the phone-hacking scandal in Britain.

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