ABCs: Newspapers continue print decline

Circulation continues to drop across national and metro newspapers, according to data released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation today.

The greatest fall comes from Sydney’s Sunday paper, Fairfax Media’s Sun-Herald, which has seen circulation dip by 24.4 per cent from 383,607 to 290,174 compared to the same period last year. Quarter on quarter, the circulation has fallen 7.43 per cent based on figures from the last audit period of October to December 2012.

Fairfax also took a hit with its Sydney weekday paper The Sydney Morning Herald losing 13.6 per cent of circulation since last year and 7.19 per cent since last quarter. This is despite the paper moving to a new compact size at the beginning of March.

Similarly, Melbourne’s The Age dropped 12.6 per cent to 144,277 from 165,061 in the same period last year.

Despite the figures, Fairfax editorial director Garry Linnell said the change from broadsheet to compact produced a circulation boost for both papers’ weekday editions.

“The sales for the first month of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s Monday to Friday compact edition were up three per cent compared with the previous month, largely driven by a 10 per cent increase in retail sales during the launch week,” Linnell said. “However, compact can only be attributed to less than once month’s worth of retail as we launched on  March 4.”

Linnell added that the circulation figures represent only part of the overall audience picture as they do not include audience consumption of the mastheads on website, mobile and tablet devices. “We’ve continued to experience robust sales of paid digital editions across metro mastheads. As we continue with our long-term strategy of actively replace discounted print offers, we are seeing strong growth in digital replicas by offering our existing print readers digital alternatives,” he said.

The Australian Financial Review weekend edition saw a boost in sales up 18.2 per cent compared to the same period last year although the Easter weekend falling within this audit and not the year prior was a contributing factor.

The results for News Limited were disappointing with Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph losing about 30,000 with circulation down from 336,348 to 305,132, a drop of 9.3 per cent for the same period last year and a fall of 8.49 per cent on last quarter. The Weekend Australian went from 290,323 last year to 264,547 this year, a fall of 8.9 per cent and is down 0.81 per cent on the last quarter while the weekday edition also fell from 127,942 sales last year to 119,490, a drop of 6.6 per cent and a 2.4 per cent loss from last quarter.  The Australian went down 6.6 per cent from last year from 127,942 to 119,490 and 2.2 per cent from the last quarter.

The Sunday Telegraph’s circulation dropped 8.2 per cent from 609,167 in 2012 to 559,026 this year and from 599,165 in the last quarter. The Daily Telegraph lost 7.1 per cent from last year, going from 314,568 to 302,250.

News Limited CEO Kim Williams said the decline in the metro papers was expected due to a removal of cheaper subscription offerings. He said in a statement: “When declines attributable to removing low-value copies and event sales are taken into account, adjustments across key mastheads and regional papers on average are significantly lower than declines in the ABC raw data.”

Williams chose instead to focus on growth in digital subscriptions with a 16 per cent rise for The Australian from last quarter and Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, the first of the publisher’s tabloid titles to introduce an online paywall. The Herald-Sun has 26,436 digital subscribers.

Nationwide News publications, the Northern Territory News and the Sunday Territorian also saw a decline in circulation as did Western Australian newspapers.

Steve Allen from media consultancy Fusion Strategy said the numbers were “pretty much as expected” and were on account of a slump in retail. He said: “The length of three-plus years of really poor retail growth is accelerating a dire outlook for newspapers, from which they will not recover. When retail picks itself up from the canvas, Q4 this year, comparables will become easier for newspapers. But not now. A poor but consistent audit.”


weekday papers metro march 2013


weekend papers march 2013 circ


national papers march 2013 circ

For more on today’s ABC figures, download Encore on your tablet device.

Encore issue 13


  1. Darcey
    10 May 13
    9:24 am

  2. I’m not surprised that the biggest declines have occurred in Fairfax’s Sydney papers.
    It seems that most of their content comes from Melbourne these days. All the SMH journalists have left the building

  3. Bruce
    10 May 13
    10:01 am

  4. I think the SMH has become a whole lot of nothing. They’d even increased the sections with a whole lot of nothing. Monday’s edition was exactly the same as Friday’s edition (even the cartoons aren’t funny!). I appreciate it was like 35 bucks a month, but I cancelled my subscription a month ago.

  5. Me
    10 May 13
    10:20 am

  6. Hasn’t The Canberra times and NT News dropped below the ABC’s reporting threshold of 30k….?

  7. Liz
    10 May 13
    11:04 am

  8. It’s no surprise. There’s nothing in the SMH. Almost no news or journos bar Kate McClymont and Linton Besser. And you can get a year of the New Yorker for 3 months of the SMH.

  9. zumabeach
    10 May 13
    1:20 pm

  10. Sauntered down to the Bondi Beach newsagency on Campbell Parade at 9.30 a.m. thinking I might buy the SMH – I’m old and after a life-time in print I still like ink on paper, okay! Anyway, they didn’t have any – most of their delivery got lost along the way. Apparently this is not unusual around here, but it’s pretty bad when it happens to the biggest newsagency in the area. Fairfax simply don’t care about print any more. At least News still make like they do, even if the Telecrap is a comic book.

  11. Lindsay.
    10 May 13
    5:10 pm

  12. It is very sad to read the SMH and Sun-Herald these days. There is just so little in them with any substance. Both papers seem to be edited to repel readers. I wish it was not so.

  13. ChocolateFan
    10 May 13
    11:20 pm

  14. According to the ABC figures, the SMH and the AGE saw an 86% increase year on year for their weekday digital editions from 46,127 to 86,078. That’s massive and far higher than the other mastheads. It seems to me that Fairfax’s audience appears to be embracing digital more quickly than others. Fairfax’s websites are also the most visited news sites in Australia. So there’s no doubt their content is still in demand, the only question is what form it comes in.

  15. Ex reader
    11 May 13
    7:21 pm

  16. ChocolateFan: sadly the reported subscriber numbers are only part of the story. The loss of print audience reflects a very large loss of ad dollars. The digital subs produce peanuts. The coming financial results will show i think that the sloppy approach to quality at fairfax has great cost.