UK Times’ Paid Take-Up ‘Very Encouraging’, Murdoch Says

In recent weeks, eager, pessimistic analyses have deployed various mathematical alchemies to declare News International’s new online strategy already a failure. But Rupert Murdoch is having none of it…

Answering investment analysts’ questions about The Times’ one-month-old paid model on Wednesday, he said: “It’s very, very early days with our paywall around The Times. We’ve had a very encouraging number of people subscribe, at a good price.

But the pessimists and speculators can carry on for now. “We’re not going to release the (official) numbers at this stage,” Murdoch said. “We think we’re on the right strategy there and we think it’s going well.”

It’s fair to say that, if and when the strategy is a resounding success, that is when News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) will shout the numbers – and that clearly hasn’t happened so far.

Announcing six percent higher revenue on returning ad money, News Corp said The Sun’s advertising sales improved 22 percent over the last year, within a 14 percent improvement for News International generally.

Murdoch described it as “almost inexplicably good advertising“: “I’m very, very confident about the next six months. But there is sufficient fragility for us not to be overconfident about the medium term.”

He again rattled off his belief that tablets like iPad are “a game-changer altogether”: “Mobile technology will transform the print business. We’re going to see, around the world, hundreds and hundreds of millions of these devices – we’ve got to develop our methods of presentation of news.”

On News Corp.’s proposal to buy the 61 percent of BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) it doesn’t own, Murdoch said: “We’ll be filing very shortly in Brussels – that takes about a month to go through the first stage. They can call to a second stage which would take two to three months – it would then come back to the British regulators. It could take six months, 12 months – but certainly not more than 12. We’d be very disappointed if it went beyond this financial year.”