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News Corp remains viable but its publications are struggling in the digital world, says Murdoch

News Corp’s publications remain viable but continue to struggle in the face of the shift to digital, executive chairman Rupert Murdoch told shareholders in Los Angeles this morning.

Murdoch said growth in digital advertising was causing damage to print products, admitting his local papers were struggling.

Murdoch admitted his papers – beyond the big nationals – were struggling

While commending Thomson on his efforts to challenge Google and Facebook, he told shareholders loss of advertising revenue to digital continues to be a problem.

“It’s no question that the growth of advertising is about all digital. It’s been tremendously damaging to print and what we’ve been doing of course is trying to extend our subscription base,” he said.

“So far we have done pretty well in replacing the lost advertising revenue in the major papers but it continues to be a big problem.”

When asked by a shareholder whether Murdoch or his company would buy any more newspapers, he responded: “Not really, no. We have our hands pretty full making our existing papers viable. The big three successes we have are the big three national papers – The Wall Street Journal, The Times in London and The Australian. Other papers – there’s still a lot of them and they are still very viable but they’re struggling.”

He added there were no plans to engage in joint ventures with other companies.

Also in the meeting CEO Robert Thomson said the digital duopoly – namely Facebook and Google – must recognise the value of premium content, and it’s crucial algorithm’s don’t “discriminate against quality journalism.”

Thomson spoke about the value of the company’s stance on intellectual property, which he argued led to the termination of Google’s First Click Free.

Algorithms should not be used as a ‘weapon of censorship’, says Thomson

His comments come a month after Google decided to end its First Click Free policy, following trials with global publishers and News Corp’s The Australian tightening its access.

“It is crucial that algorithms are not used to discriminate against quality journalism or be a weapon of censorship,” he said.

“As the result of our efforts, we have begun working with Facebook and Google on subscription mechanic and Google has finally terminated first click free – an important first step in letting consumers find valuable journalism.

“We will closely monitor the effects of this significant change in coming months.”

He also said the intention to combine Foxtel and Fox Sports Australia into a new company, will be of significant value to shareholders.

“Since the birth in 2013 of the new News Corp, which is built on the providence and principles of the original News Corporation, we have been assertively digital and have led the global awakening and reckoning on the value of content at a time of profound change in our markets and in society.

“In August, News Corp and Telstra announced their intention to combine Foxtel and Fox Sports Australia into a new company, which we expect to unlock value for News Corp shareholders and align ownership and management for success at a time when scale is important and Australians are consuming premium content across a range of platforms,” he said.

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