For an octogenarian with ink in his veins, Rupert Murdoch sounds awfully enthusiastic -- downright giddy, even -- about the digital future of newspapers. As he's done elsewhere recently, the News Corp. (NWS) chairman waxed rhapsodic about the possibilities of Apple's (AAPL) iPad on his company's quarterly earnings call Wednesday. "It's a real game-changer in the presentation of news," he said. We'll have young people reading newspapers again. We'll have different looking newspapers.
"Of course there'll be other imitators, other people in the market very soon. But I believe [the iPad] is a game-changer altogether."
"Very, Very Confident of the Next Six Months"
News Corp.'s results, although not uniformly positive, contained ample reasons for optimism. For the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, the global media conglomerate swung back into profit, recording earnings of $875 million, or 33 cents a share. Revenue grew 5.7%, and operating income was up for its cable, television and newspaper divisions, although down for filmed entertainment, its second-biggest unit after cable.
Murdoch called the advertising environment facing News Corp. "almost inexplicably good" and said he's "very, very confident of the next six months." But the media mogul also sought to temper his ebullience, adding, "I think there is sufficient fragility [in the world economy] for us not to be overconfident about the long term, or the medium term."
Other highlights from the News Corp. earnings call:
Murdoch insisted the decision to put the Times of London's website behind a paywall is paying off: "We have had a very encouraging number of people subscribing at a good price. We're not going to release those numbers...at this stage. But we think we're on the right strategy there."
CEO Chase Carey addressed reports that his base salary, as well as those of other News Corp. executives, will be reduced in favor of a compensation package more closely tied to performance: "I believe in the business, I believe in the future, and I think it's the right thing to do."
Murdoch was asked about reports that he might buy the Texas Rangers. His reply: "We will not be buying any sporting teams. We're in the business of buying sports rights, not sporting teams."
He was also asked whether a year-long advertiser boycott of Glenn Beck promoted by various liberal groups has had any effect. "They're not boycotting watching it -- he's getting incredible numbers," he said. "We haven't lost any business. Some of them might've moved to other shows. It certainly hasn't affected our revenues or our profits."
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