Murdoch will add news and arts to Journal's repertoire away from

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Rupert Murdoch has promised to shift the Wall Street Journal away from its exclusive focus on business news when he acquires the news-paper at the end of this year, reaching out to new readers with the addition of nat-ional and international news and arts coverage.

The media mogul was setting out his vision for the Journal in a wide-ranging presentation to a technology conference on the West coast of the US, where he again hinted that the paper's successful website would drop its subscription fees and rely solely on advertising income.

But his comments came just before yesterday's fin-ancial results from Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, which revealed how circulation and subscription revenues have propped up profits in the teeth of a downturn in dem-and for advertising.

The amount of space given over to ads in the US print edition of the Journal fell 13.6 per cent in the third quarter, and generated 2.9 per cent less revenue, primarily due to a sharp decline in technology advertising. In total, the consumer media division of Dow Jones – which includes the Journal businesses, Barron's magazine and some local papers – posted a 2.5 per cent increase in revenue, thanks to a 7.8 per cent increase in circulation and subscription income. The number of paid subscribers to the online version of the Journal was up 25.5 per cent to 989,000.

Mr Murdoch has long argued that a free online Journal would make up for lost subscriptions because the increased readership would allow him to jack up rates.

At the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco, Mr Murdoch said a decision would be taken by the end of the year. There would also be swift moves under his ownership to boost coverage of politics, to broaden the readership, and arts, to attract new advertisers. The aim, he said, was to better compete with generalist newspapers.

Asked if he wanted to "kill" the New York Times, Mr Murdoch replied: "That would be nice."

Flanked by the founders of MySpace, the social networking website that his News Corp empire bought in 2005, Mr Murdoch also set a new direction for that business. MySpace will follow the lead of faster-growing rival Facebook and throw open the site to software developers who want to create new games, entertainment tools and other applications that run on users' web pages.

"We are opening our platform in the next couple of months," said Chris DeWolfe, MySpace's chief executive, confirming months of speculation. Mr DeWolfe and co-founder Tom Anderson have signed a new two-year contract to stay with News Corp.

The 76-year-old Mr Murdoch said he was still a "trainee" when it came to internet businesses.

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