Back in 2012 Warren Buffet was an still an enthusiastic supporter of print, putting his money (US$142 million) where his mouth was for a swag of small regional papers in the US.

Four years on though, Buffett has abandoned that belief and reverted to his 2007 gloom, and now thinks newspapers are duds, that their time is past. For all the support he received from existing newspaper owners for defending them, his latest comments will be ignored, including by those executives and others attending the September 2 Future Forum in Sydney being promoted by the NewsMediaWorks industry group. The conference could have done no worse by inviting Buffett to explain his latest change of heart which was revealed in an interview last week with Politico. Buffett explained why he has become super pessimistic about print.

“Newspapers are going to go downhill. Most newspapers, the transition to the internet so far hasn’t worked in digital,” he told Politico.”The revenues don’t come in. There are a couple of exceptions for national newspapers — The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are in a different category. That doesn’t mean it necessarily works brilliantly for them, but they are a different business than a local newspaper. But local newspapers continue to decline at a very significant rate.”

“And even with the economy improving, circulation goes down, advertising goes down, and it goes down in prosperous cities, it goes down in areas that are having urban troubles, it goes down in small towns — that’s what amazes me. A town of 10 or 20,000, where there’s no local TV station obviously, and really there’s nothing on the internet that tells you what’s going on in a town like that, but the circulation just goes down every month.

“And when circulation goes down, advertising is gonna go down, and what used to be a virtuous circle turns into a vicious circle. I still love newspapers! You’re talking to the last guy in the world. Someday you’ll come out and interview me, and you’ll see a guy with a landline phone, reading a print newspaper.”


Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey