The details of the December quarter and 2014 circulation figures for Australian newspapers and magazines reveal some absolute disasters, particularly at Fairfax, and a looming headache at News. The circulation figures are comprehensive -- they contain all sorts of detail on print, print plus digital, digital-only subscriptions and combined figures. There's also a breakdown involving freebies, or copies of papers in hotels, on planes or in passenger lounges at airports. You can choose your data point and build a story that glosses over the bad news.

But over the past couple of years, the story, in aggregate, has always been bad. And the steady drip of falls will sooner or later force Fairfax, and possibly News Corp, to make a difficult decision -- when they'll make the first cut to the frequency of publications of their storied metropolitan and national editions.