Britain’s Daily Telegraph, founded in 1855 is a first-rate newspaper with some outstanding columnists, but like newspapers everywhere including in New Zealand, is in sales free-fall.
Purchased by Scotland’s enigmatic Barclay Brothers for £665,000 13 years ago, it’s now up for sale for reputedly half that sum. However, the Barclay Brothers didn’t become super rich through stupidity and one suspects in their understandable desperation to cut and run, they’d probably take a great deal less, that’s if they could find anyone silly enough to buy it.
For the sad truth is that all traditional media are losing value daily. Thus in New Zealand we see the failure by TV3 to find a buyer, or Fairfax likewise seeking to unload our biggest newspaper chain Stuff, at a fraction of its value of two decades ago, but again, with no takers.
40 years ago, The Telegraph had 1.4 million daily sales. Today it’s down to 300,000 and falling rapidly, by way example, having lost a massive 34% of subscribers in the last 2 years alone.
As here with both Stuff and The Herald, The Telegraph is pinning its hopes on its very popular website. But even that’s questionable durability-wise, as it’s simply too easy to emulate, thus the ever-growing rich variety of digital news channels, many free or dependant on advertisers.
But as for print; well on current trends probably physical newspapers will be non-existent within 5 years and we’ll be totally reliant on news websites. Somehow for older folk like me, it’s not the same but not so for most who have grown up in a digital world.
It’s no consolation for the industry but they’re not alone in their fate. Take department stores. I’ll be very surprised if any still exist in 5 years time, again yet another victim of the electronic age.
So too with many other activities. I specially mourn the loss of dress shops up against incredibly low cost internet purchasing. I rue their demise as they were always my company’s preferred ground floor tenancies for office buildings because of their gaiety and colour. In their place are now our second preferred occupants of coffee-shops, providing life and verve, particularly with outdoor seating. As investors our task is to try and read the future. We mostly get it right but in an ever-changing world, there’s constant surprises. The quid pro-quo I suppose, is at least it makes life interesting. Far better that than say wasting it at the other extreme and enlisting in a Trappist monastery.