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Digital subscriber gains help News Corp results

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Rupert Murdoch's News Corp saw stronger overall revenue gains than expected in its latest quarterly results, helped along by digital subscriptions

NEW YORK (AFP) - 

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp on Tuesday reported some positive signs for its global newspaper operations, as the number of digital subscribers for the Wall Street Journal topped one million.

The New York-based media group reported a net loss for the quarter ending March 31 of $5 million, compared with a loss of $149 million in the same period a year ago.

The loss in the fiscal third quarter stemmed from a $280 million legal settlement related to its News America Marketing unit.

Overall revenues for the group rose five percent from a year ago to $1.98 billion, lifted by gains from newspapers and its other media and publishing operations.

The results were stronger than expected, and helped lift News Corp shares by some two percent in after-hours trade.

"We saw particular progress in our quest to be more digital and global, while there was tangible improvement in operating efficiencies," said chief executive Robert Thomson in a statement.

Thomson said the newspaper segment "was a source of growth this quarter -- in both revenues and profitability," helped by digital subscriber gains of more than 300,000 at the Wall Street Journal.

The boost at the Wall Street Journal comes following strong gains for the New York Times, which now has some two million digital subscribers and has seen growth following the election of President Donald Trump.

The Wall Street Journal had an average of 1.198 million average daily digital subscribers in the quarter.

The company also reported digital subscription gains at its Australian newspapers to 333,400 from 261,500 in the prior year, and for the London-based The Times and Sunday Times -- 185,000 compared to 174,000 in the prior year.

News Corp also includes the HarperCollins book publisher and a "digital real estate" platform with sites such as realtor.com. They showed revenue growth of four and 13 percent, respectively.

Thomson's comments said the company is dealing with increased debate "over the dysfunctionality of the digital duopoly," an apparent reference to the stranglehold in online advertising by Google and Facebook.

He said News Corp properties "offer veracity and value," and noted that the company is developing a new digital ad platform "to offer clearly defined demographics from across our range of prestigious properties."

News Corp retained the name of the media-entertainment conglomerate broken up into two separate firms in 2013 as part of Murdoch's plan to "unlock value" for shareholders.

Murdoch, 86, began a gradual withdrawal from both companies in 2013, and now shares the title of chairman with his eldest son Lachlan at both firms. His son James Murdoch is chief executive at the television-entertainment unit known as 21st Century Fox.

© 2017 AFP