News Corp. publishing business CEO Robert Thomson upbeat about print industry as its newspapers are reshaped for digital age, says costs are being 'confronted and cut,' mastheads being 'reoriented,' transformation to take longer than a couple of quarters

HOBART, Australia , June 7, 2013 () – THE incoming boss of News Corporation's publishing business believes there are reasons to be optimistic about the print industry as its newspapers are reshaped for the digital age.

Robert Thomson, who will head the ``new News Corp'' once the global media giant splits into a publishing company and a film and television unit, says he is ``certainly not naive'' about the challenges faced by newspapers.

Mr Thomson said the company's mastheads were in the ``midst of a transformation''.

``Costs are being confronted and cut, and the mastheads are being reoriented,'' Mr Thomson said during a News Corp investor day in Sydney yesterday to discuss the split.

``That transformation will take longer than a couple of quarters.

``We are also candidly and decidedly optimistic about the medium-term prospects for the company in revenue growth and in margin expansion.

``We have a very strong balance sheet that will be the cornerstone of our future and for future investment returns.''

Mr Thomson said the advertising market had been volatile amid lower print sales in Australia.

He said print sales had declined ``in part because our team has been removing what was politely called lower-yielding copies''.

Kim Williams, the chief executive of the group's Australian arm, News Ltd, told the briefing The Australian newspaper had about 50,000 digital subscribers since creating a digital paywall, from a Monday to Friday subscription base of about 120,000.

``It's been growing strongly quarter on quarter,'' Mr Williams said.

In May, News Ltd rolled out digital paywalls for metropolitan newspapers Melbourne's Herald Sun and Sydney's Daily Telegraph, while Brisbane's Courier Mail launched this week.

``We are driving direct revenue by energetically promoting subscription products across the group,'' Mr Williams said.

News Corp closed up 21c at $33.51 in local trading. The stock is listed in Australia and the US.

(c) 2013 News Limited

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