South Australian's only daily and weekend newspapers are in dire straits as the downward trend in circulation and advertising revenue cannot be stopped.
Like most large metropolitan newspapers, The Advertiser has been squeezed by high news gathering costs, decreasing ad revenue (the classifieds have fled online) and a loss of consumers.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), since 2009 the weekday Advertiser has lost 39,818 in sales, the Saturday Advertiser is down 59,978 and the Sunday Mail has plummeted a whopping 74,971. Each masthead is currently dropping at about 9 per cent per annum. ABC trend data is listed for the three mastheads below.
News Corporation spins these numbers by combining monthly 'readership' figures with unique page clicks on its online newspapers. Don't be fooled. If a man picks up a copy of The Advertiser at the dentist, he is counted as a 'reader'. So are the dentist, the receptionist and all the patients that day.
The Advertiser gets many more 'readers' online than the print edition because most visitors come to consume free information such as weather, dating opportunities and the constant stream of 'clickbait' celebrity, lifestyle and 'man bites dog' stories. Few are there for the reporting.
A recently leaked News Corporation report to Crikey, showed how Murdoch's Australian newspapers were travelling in 2012-13. The Advertiser and Sunday Mail budgeted income for the year 2013-12 was $30 million. They scraped in at $22 million – almost half that of the previous year ($42 million).
The Advertiser and Sunday Mail sacked 195 staff in 2012-13 and another 23 got the chop from the Messenger. This typifies the 'creative destruction' running through the global newspaper industry. The Advertiser, like the Titanic, is going down bow first.
The speed at which Google has vanquished Gutenberg is astounding. Over the last five years, 24 large US newspapers have closed and almost as many have cut back to publishing two or three editions a week.Newspapers are expensive to produce. They require highly skilled staff, large complex printers, kilometres of paper and a distribution network.
Surely SA's online subscribers will come to The Advertiser's rescue?
News Corporation won't release the online subscription figures for The Advertiser. Even so, it's pay walls won't make up for the shortfall in newspaper sales and ad revenue. Currently, The Advertiser charges $6.00 a week in subscriptions for all three papers. This is not nearly enough.
As for online advertising, as Eric Beecher said in an essay in The Monthly (July) last year, "It (the Internet) is the first mass medium with almost no barriers to entry and practically unlimited content carrying capacity. These two factors have converged to create millions of websites and blogs, billions of webpages resulting in the collapse of online advertising rates for all but highly specialized or unique websites."
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