News Corp warns: enjoy the profits while you can. News Corporation’s third-quarter results were boosted by Avatar and another strong showing by the group’s cable business, especially the right-wing Fox News Network, but the fourth quarter won’t be so lucky and news bosses have already warmed up the market to expect lower earnings. The company’s head bean counter, CFO David DeVoe, told a teleconference that the fourth-quarter results will fall from a year earlier on lower performances by the film division and the Fox broadcast network.

The news knocked News Corp shares 3.8% lower in US after-hours trading (the result came out just after the market closed at 6am today, Australian time). They had earlier fallen 4% in the big sell-off that racked world markets overnight. That halved the 12% rise this year.

The Avatar surge will ease, despite taking an estimated $US2.7 billion in all forms of takings so far. That helped pushed News’ third-quarter revenues up 19% and pre-tax earnings up 55% to $.125 billion. But the expected fourth-quarter easing in earnings growth won’t stop News earnings up closer to 30% instead of just over 20%, which was the forecast a year ago.

Murdoch and News are swimming in cash. Despite redeeming $US1 billion of debt securities during the quarter, News ended March with more than $US8.2 billion, up from $US6.5 billion. This is when Murdoch is at his most extravagant and dangerous; it’s when he overpays for acquisitions, as he did in 2007 when he paid what turned out to be 50% more for the Dow Jones Company (of the Wall Street Journal) than he needed to have paid. He paid $US5.6 billion for it and wrote off more than $US2.8 billion in 2008.

The spritely 79-year old chairman sounded upbeat this morning. The gloom of 12-18 months ago has gone and he talked confidently of rebound, saying: “The advertising market is currently seeing strong across-the-board growth, particularly in the US and Britain.” Newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, where advertising was up 25%, and UK titles including The Sun and The Times up 10%. But circulation revenues in the UK fell 4%, a negative glossed over. Costs cuts and the ad bounce-back at the Journal and the UK papers lifted newspaper operating profits to $US131 million, a jump of $US102 million.

In Australia, the quarter was line ball. “The Australian newspaper group reported third-quarter results in line with the prior year in local currency terms. Advertising revenues, in local currency terms, were up 4% compared with the prior year quarter reflecting stronger display revenue in the retail and real estate sectors. The increased advertising revenue was offset by higher newsprint expenses and costs associated with various initiatives.” More work for John Hartigan and his united team of execs to do. — Glenn Dyer

Google seeks more Groggle time. Google is seeking an extension of the deadline for filing its objection to the trademark Groggle to allow it “to conduct genuine negotiations” with the Brisbane-based web start-up. As Crikey reported Thursday, Google considers the Groggle trademark too similar to its own. “We’re hopeful we’ll reach an agreement without any need for legal action on either side, a Google spokesperson told Crikey understands that IP Australia routinely grants such extensions. — Stilgherrian

Young journalists shine, from the city and country

“The (Walkley Foundation)  awards, which recognises the best work from Australian journalists aged 26 and under, saw more than 100 journalists submit entries across the print, radio, television, photography and online media categories.” — Mumbrella

Brown involves Murdoch in conspiracy theory

“Gordon Brown has hinted for the first time at a possible conspiracy between the Conservative party and Rupert Murdoch’s UK-based media divisions, BSkyB and News International.” — The Guardian

Forget Fox, most viewers still trust CNN

“According to a new, very random Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll, however, 32 per cent of Americans consider CNN ‘the most trustworthy source of daily news’, edging Fox News, which follows at 29 per cent.” — The Wrap

Sensitive personal information and Facebook: a dangerous recipe

“As grumbling about Facebook’s ever-shifting privacy policies gets louder, a new study from Consumer Reports suggests a majority of people post risky information on their social-network profiles.” — New York Times

Speaking to the past: Penguin Books’ 75th anniversary project

“… how many of us can time-stamp periods in our life just by the merest glance a Penguin cover and its genius format? College. Loneliness. Relationships. Adulthood. In some sense, Penguin covers function more as diaries than they do as covers.”

 — Speaking To The Past

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey