No wonder Murdoch’s shitting bricks. Fairfax too. Everyone in the news business, actually. It’s not just the death of newspapers and broadcast media we’re looking at. Even the audience for online news is plummeting.

Nicholas Moerman, a planning intern with Proximity in London, has spotted a steady but solid decline in traffic to major global websites starting about September 2008. Check his presentation.  News sites, video sites, blogs, shopping — even porn. Wherever you look it’s the same.

Except for social networking sites.

Sceptical? I certainly was. So here’s the chart for some key Australian mastheads.

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crikey-webtraffic-20091126-001Every site has a spike for the 2007 federal election, seasonal slumps across December-January, a spike for (presumably) the Black Saturday bushfires — and a year-long relentless slide down and to the right.

I’ve plotted rather than or here because most of the pages on those sites are served out of sub-directories such as

Here’s some more key sites, this time filtered to show only traffic from Australia.

crikey-webtraffic-20091126-002NineMSN, eBay, Microsoft and poor Mr Murdoch’s MySpace — all down and to the right.

Even Crikey and our friends over at The Punch show the same decline, though perhaps it’s less clear. Down and to the right. Down. And to the right.

crikey-webtraffic-20091126-003By all means make your own chart pr0n over at Google Trends. Alas, you can’t chart Google’s own sites, including leading video site YouTube. Sekrits!

At many social networking sites — and especially Facebook — things are very different.

crikey-webtraffic-20091126-004Facebook continues to grow. MySpace continues to collapse. Yes, well. No wonder, as Crikey reported yesterday, Murdoch is keen to renew Google’s advertising contract.

Twitter has grown to what appears to be a plateau. However, most serious Twitter users migrate to third-party client software rather than use the website itself.

Google Trends charts “daily unique visitors” to a website, not the industry standard “monthly unique visitors” — or “monthly reach” in old media terms. It’s therefore more volatile. If someone visiting a site five days a week drops back to only two days, the daily unique figure drops more than half while the monthly unique is unchanged.

However, advertisers are interested in eyeballs multiplied by time. Fewer visits means less advertising revenue. And certainly fewer click-throughs.

So why the traffic drop?

The start seems to coincide with the global financial crisis, but surely we’d have seen a recovery by now, especially in Australia?

Could it be an artifact of Google’s methodology, a change in technique perhaps? Google couldn’t answer that by our deadline this morning, but it seems unlikely. A change in methods would surely show as a sudden change in numbers, not a steady decline.

No, I reckon this is what those annoying social media experts have been predicting all along. People are passing news directly among  themselves. They’re bypassing the traditional news outlets — whether online or on sliced tree.

They’re more interested in news from their friends and family than manufactured celebrities, too. There’s only so many minutes in the day. They’re spending more of them on Facebook, fewer on news media.

If people see the headline and lead paragraph passed along via Facebook, or exchange a few snarky comments on Twitter, perhaps that’s enough to satisfy their curiosity. Who needs to click through to the whole story anyway?