News Corp CEO predicts a ‘migration to premium’ as brands traverse the digital ‘bot-infested badlands’

News Corp leadership is still quick to highlight the value of its print advertising products

Digital subscription and ad revenue gains helped News Corp narrow losses to $66m in the December quarter, with chief executive officer Robert Thomson hailing the recently launched ad platform News IQ and video specialist Unruly as high performing divisions of the business.

News Corp announced revenues of $2.18bn for the three months to December 31, representing a 3% increase year-over-year, with the overall performance a significant improvement on a $219m loss 12 months earlier.

Digital revenues, including ads and subscriptions, represented 29% of those generated by its News and Information Services division while its Digital Real Estate Services division, which houses brands such as realtor.com, grew 21% (see chart).

In a prepared statement, Thomson described the performance as “robust” and criticized digital market leaders Facebook and Google, adding that they too were in the midst of a “particularly disruptive period, commercially, socially and politically.”

He added: “We appreciate that Google has ended the prejudicial First Click Free and that Facebook is prioritizing provenance, but these are modest steps toward changing a digital environment that is dysfunctional at its core.

“The bot-infested badlands are hardly a safe space for advertisers, whose brands are being tainted by association with the extreme, the violent and the repulsive.”

Thomson went on to state: “There is no doubt about this, there will be a migration to premium, and that’s where we have a comparative advantage because our titles around the world are leading titles in their markets.”

He further went on to highlight the rollout of News IQ, the publishing giant’s in-house based advertising platform which executives hope will provide advertisers with the scale they require when reaching audiences online, but with added assurances over brand safety.

“This takes advantage of the great inventory we have, and the authenticated audiences we have, and being able to offer advertisers the opportunity to project their image and wares in a space that won’t be detrimental to their image, but brand-enhance it,” added Thomson.

According to the comments made in the company’s subsequent earnings call, its video advertising unit Unruly had “its best quarter ever in terms of revenue” particularly in the US, with Thomson describing its recently installed chief executive Norm Johnston “astute and acute.”

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