Rupert Murdoch's Australian flagship media group News Corp announced on Wednesday it would stop printing around 60 regional newspapers. Credit: The Dispatch.

The coronavirus is hitting the newspaper industry hard Down Under.

Rupert Murdoch’s Australian flagship media group News Corp announced on Wednesday it would stop printing around 60 regional newspapers, as the troubled sector received a fresh blow from a Covid-19 advertising downturn, The Global Times reported.

News Corp said papers in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia would cease printing and move online, the report said. 

“We have not taken this decision lightly,” News Corp Australasia Executive Chairman Michael Miller was quoted as saying by the group’s Australian newspaper title. 

“The coronavirus crisis has created unprecedented economic pressures and we are doing everything we can to preserve as many jobs as possible.”

“The suspension of our community print editions has been forced on us by the rapid decline in advertising revenues following the restrictions placed on real estate auctions and home inspections, the forced closure of event venues and dine-in restaurants in the wake of the coronavirus emergency,” he added.

Many Australian media groups had already been shifting focus to online content before the pandemic began, the report said.

The announcement follows a series of media closure statements, including national wire AAP, which is due to cease work later this year, the report said.

The move has echoed a global trend. 

The largest US newspaper publisher, Gannett, said on Monday it was making unspecified furloughs and pay cuts for its staff, the report said.

Falling readerships and the rise of Google and Facebook as dominant players in advertising has made news organizations less profitable.

Meanwhile, UK print newspaper sales have fallen by as much as 30% since the start of the government-ordered coronavirus lockdown, according to industry sources, with journalists at many local newspapers placed on leave and warnings that hundreds of reporters could be left without jobs as the advertising market collapses, The Guardian reported.

Thousands of independent newsagents have closed, commuter traffic is non-existent, and supermarkets are expected to cut the numbers of copies they take from next week because of reduced footfall, the report said.

With many readers also self-isolating, one of the British news industry’s main sources of revenue has taken a heavy hit.