News Corp Posts First Quarterly Loss In Three Years; 14 Laid Off At Wall Street Journal, And The Relative Performance of The WSJ and the New York Times

A grand coincidence?

Well, yeah, actually. Judging from the dynamics for virtually any comparable major media outlet (and especially one that gets the bulk of its revenues from print), you have to think News Corp would have done this even if the company had eked out a small profit. The Wall Street Journal is many things, but “wildly profitable” is not one of them. The kinder voices out there considered it a marginally profitable entity, at best, in recent years—even before the economy started heading south. Given how southward things have gone, cutting 14 journalists (on top of 11 positions already axed through attrition) out of a newsroom several hundred strong hardly begins to make up for the kinds of revenue declines major properties are experiencing.

It's interesting to note that the Dow Jones Newswires' unit will not be cut, and insiders and observers alike will be left to puzzle out what WSJ editor Robert Thomson meant when he wrote stagger that the Journal will still hire journalists for "projects of strategic significance."

But, given its prior recent performance, it's hard to see how the Journal did not post significant losses in '08. (A Dow Jones spokesman declined to comment on questions about the Journal's performance last year.) Given that, it's entirely possible--hell, pretty likely, even--that the New York Times (the paper, not the company) had a better bottom line in '08 than the Journal. Bear in mind that the ad losses at the unit that is primarily composed of the Times itself posted than the rest of the company portfolio. And its circulation revenue . (Scroll waaaaay down on both those links. Also, Murdoch--obviously no dummy--in this week's News Corp earnings call threw cold water on those stats and the Journal's own significant January ad declines, saying the Times was slashing its ad rates. Scroll waaaay down on that link too; his remark comes in the Q&A following the company's presentation.)

A New York Times that performs better than the Wall Street Journal? Man. I bet Rupert hates that. But then, if Rupert really cared about losses, he'd have cut loose the New York Post (and the Times of London, for that matter) long ago.

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