Captain Obvious: Newspapers are dying

It may seem like a no brainer, but print newspapers are on their last legs.

According to data released by the Audited Media Association of Australia (AMAA), combined Monday to Saturday national newspaper sales dropped 9.5% in the June quarter, compared to the previous year, and Monday to Sunday metropolitan titles recording a double-digit fall of 11.1%.

Fairfax Media (ASX: FXJ) papers faired particularly badly, with circulation of the weekday Sydney Morning Herald down a whopping 17% year-on-year to 141,699, and is now outsold by its Victorian sibling, The Age. But that’s only because The Age circulation fell a somewhat less disastrous 16.2% to 142,050.

Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald lost one-fifth of its circulation to just 233,335, likewise The Sun Herald saw a drop of 20.4%, and The Sunday Age slipped 11.7%. Business paper, The Australian Financial Review saw its circulation lose 6.8% on weekdays to just 66,220, and 14.7% on Saturdays.

Of course, the large falls could also be attributed to the same content available online, much of it still free.

Over at News Corporation (ASX: NWS), paper circulation was just as bad. The Australian dropped 9.8% to 116,655, while Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph plunged 11.2%. Seven West Media’s (ASX: SWM) West Australian posted a drop of 8.7% on weekdays, and 3.8% on Saturdays.

Regional papers weren’t spared either, with most recording high single-digit falls in circulation. Regional newspapers were once thought to be virtual monopolies, with strong competitive advantages, but it seems that is no longer the case.

Overall, total newspaper circulation slumped by 11.2%, with not one newspaper seeing a positive rise in sales. While the media companies have rolled out their digital subscriptions, it seems they have yet to offset the whopping falls in their print cousins.

Foolish takeaway

It’s bad news for media companies – and likely to see print advertising move even faster away from newspapers. One wonders when the first media company will bite the bullet and cease print operations totally – it doesn’t appear far away.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

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