News Corp is testing its own programmatic ad network as it looks to offset print declines that contributed to an overall revenue dip of 2.1%.
Despite continued significant increases in digital, News Corp’s revenues overall dropped by $45m, to hit $2.12bn during the last quarter.
Digital revenues increased to 27% for its “News and Information Services segment”, ie its tier one titles, compared to 22% in the prior year, with revenues from its “Digital Real Estate Services” segment also up 16% compared to the prior year.
News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson, said the company is aggressively transitioning to digital. In all aspects of its operations digital was “well on the way to becoming our strongest contributor”, he continued, lauding its relatively recently acquired units such as Unruly Media.
He added: “In the second quarter, we saw the efficacy of our strategic reinvestment and digital diversification. Both were evident in our significantly increased operating profitability in the quarter, despite continued headwinds in print advertising."
Thomson voiced the media owner’s ambitions to ramp up its programmatic selling, adding that its “verified environment” means advertisers “don’t have to fear being guilty by association” to suspect content, reiterating The Times exposé on programmatic media buying.
In line with this, Thomson outlined ambitions for the media company to launch its own ad network, which will provide "a measurable high quality audience for advertisers" in an otherwise "murky, tenebrous world of digital advertising".
"We believe we are far better positioned than our perceived peers to weather the storms buffeting the media and publishing landscape," he added.
While declining to explain his plans in the space fully, Thomson did add that it was “advanced in our plans” to further its adtech offering.
The media executive spoke about the premium content his company put out, and took a thinly-veiled swipe at some of the internet’s major brands – read Google and Facebook – influence on the spread of fake news and referenced the role programmatic players had in helping to fund militant organizations.
“Affinity and integrity are far too often missing in the modern market place,” said Thomson. “A tweak to an algorithm, or a fact check here or there does not solve the basic problem. Ad Agencies and their programmatic ad networks are also at fault, as they sometimes artificially aggregate audiences, and these are then plied with content of dubious provenance: the agencies win; the fabricators of the take win; and advertisers and society both lose.”
Thomson additionally noted that its Wall Street Journal title added 100,000 premium subscribers between the first and second quarter, and that digital advertising revenue on the title also exceed that of print advertising revenue during the period.
When asked by investors whether News Corporation was competing with Facebook for ad revenues, Thomson said it was difficult to imagine Facebook and Snapchat replicating the high quality audience of its tier one titles such as Wall Street Journal.
When quizzed on the potential of potentially selling off distressed assets and pivot the company’s strategy, Thomson said that its series of investments and divestments geared towards enhancing its profile in “digital real estate” (the fastest-growing division). “We are focused on long-term value per share, and we’re quite confident that will happen,” he added.