Fairfax’s Sun-Herald loses 100,000 sales while video streams and page impressions fall

sun herald relaunch cover

Relaunched Sun-Herald: Down 23%

Fairfax Media’s Sydney Sunday tabloid the Sun-Herald lost a quarter of its print sales last month, figures released by the company today reveal.

The latest set of numbers from the company also raise questions about whether the company’s web growth has stalled, with video streams falling, mobile browsers standing still and monthly page impressions down on May. The only month-on-month growth came from apps, albeit from a relatively low base.

According to unaudited numbers for June, the Sun-Herald’s sales dropped by almost 100,000 compared to the same month a year before. The 23% fall from 432,617 to 335,174 is believed to be the biggest year-on-year drop in the history of Australian newspapers.

The newspaper underwent a major redesign and relaunch four months ago, which also coincided with a significant cover price rise as the company changed its print strategy to drop unprofitable sales. In commentary on today’s numbers, Fairfax Metro Media CEO Jack Matthews said: “We’re right on track for removing deeply discounted circ that was of no value to our advertisers. “We make no apology for focusing on full price retail and long‐term subscriptions.”

The fall for the Sun-Herald is an acceleration on last  month’s 19% drop.

The last available, audited numbers for rival News Limited title the Sunday Telegraph were nearly double that of the Sun-Herald at 609,167.

Meanwhile the Sydney Morning Herald’s Saturday circulation fell by 17% from 332,492 to 274,682. Its Monday to Friday circulation fell by 13% from 192,102 to 166,438.

In Melbourne, The Age was also significantly down. The Sunday Age was down 15%, The Saturday Age was down 12% and the Monday to Friday edition of The Age was down 13%.

The company’s monthly video streams also fell again – down by 15% year-on-year for smh.com.au and by 16% for theage.com.au. The video streams are also well down month-on-month, from 5.6m to 4.7m for smh.com.au and from 7.5m to 5.5m for theage.com.au.

The number of daily unique browsers on mobile sites were up fractional from 182,707 in May to 184,198 in June for smh.com.au and from 100,625 to 103,527 for theage.com.au.

The number of daily browsers on phone apps were up month-on-month from 7,674 to 9,406 for the SMH and from 5,711 to 6,798 for The Age.

Around 2000 people per day downloaded the SMH tablet app in June taking it up from 305,007 to 364,401. There have been 330,846 downloads to date for The Age’s tablet app.

Matthews said the app downloads had been driven by the launch of a new tablet version. He said: ““We’ve had an extraordinary number of downloads in just 16 days. It even outstrips the launch of the apps a year ago. Our aim is to get as many people as possible to sample the new version before we introduce digital subscriptions next year.”

Monthly page views of smh.com.au fell from 171m in May to 154m in June. Meanwhile age.com.au was up from 148m to 163m. No direct year-on-year comparison is available because of changed methodologies.

Digital editions numbers also appear to have plateaued for SMH. The number of daily digital editions barley increased from 54,577 in May to 56,583 in June.

fairfax monthly metro media audience report june

Source: Fairfax Media. Click to enlarge

Yesterday, shares in Fairfax Media fell to the lowest in the company’s history. The Australian reports today that Fairfax Media and APN are set to write down the value of their assets.


  1. Jason
    27 Jul 12
    12:47 pm

  2. The problem is, the paper just isn’t very good. Its attempt at light, easy and racey is out-tabloided by the News Ltd offering — they do this sort of thing once a week — and its supplements have absolutely no appeal to anyone with a Y chromosome.

  3. Ashley
    27 Jul 12
    1:17 pm

  4. I bought the staff rate Fairfax shares in 1992 at $1.11, so as a Fairfax shareholder I’m “not happy Jan”

  5. Megan
    27 Jul 12
    1:29 pm

  6. That’s what happens when you join Murdoch in a race to the bottom.

    What the Australian market needs is quality newspaper journalism, not more Murdoch style rubbish.

  7. WD
    27 Jul 12
    1:54 pm

  8. It’s too dense a read for a Sunday. Way too many columnists saying the same old safe, tired, PC commentary (desperately need new writers). The mag in the middle has been reduced to tattle. And Fairfax, maybe no one simply cares anymore about your benign, left-leaning agenda. Just sayin’.

  9. Ash Long
    27 Jul 12
    1:55 pm

  10. Your Mumbrella e-mail yelled ‘Herald Sun sales crash’.
    Yet the story was about the ‘Sun-Herald’ Big difference between the two. Probably requires a Mumbrella apology.

    Can Fairfax get it right on anything? This week they merged the Melbourne Weekly titles into Review Weekly – for which they paid $67 million only a few years ago.

  11. mumbrella
    27 Jul 12
    2:06 pm

  12. Hi Ash,

    An amateurish blunder on our part (see the top of the article). We’ve also reported ourselves to Dr Mumbo. http://mumbrella.com.au/sunset-106536


    Tim – Mumbrella

  13. dougfromparkdale
    27 Jul 12
    3:23 pm

  14. Ashley —
    I bought staff Fairfax shares at $4.80 in 2000 — and for many years after at not much less.
    I’m even unhappier, Jan!

  15. Lindsay.
    27 Jul 12
    3:29 pm

  16. WD is right in suggesting there are too many columnists saying nothing new in the Sun-Herald. If the paper had decent editing and sub editing that problem would have been fixed years ago.
    However WD is totally wrong in suggesting the paper has a left-leaning agenda. The paper runs a right of centre agenda, not as far right as the Sunday Telegraph, but right of centre never the less.
    The sad truth is over the past three decades the paper has been edited to make the reporters happy. Before then it used to be edited for the reader.

  17. Maree
    27 Jul 12
    3:32 pm

  18. Anyone would think you’d outsourced your sub-editing ; )

  19. zumabeach
    27 Jul 12
    3:39 pm

  20. (edited by mumbrella) Fairfax in general have lost the plot … it’s like the American strategy during the Vietnam war: “We had to burn the village to save it.” You can’t help but wonder if it’s that must different over at News, but at least they have the Rupert-like rat cunning to not boast about their disasters. Can someone ask Chairman Kim how many editorial hacks have been asked to take the long walk into oblivion as (edited by Mumbrella) have toured the far flung provinces in recent weeks? Bet they don’t say but it rumoured to be well into three figures … with more to come.

  21. WD
    27 Jul 12
    4:22 pm

  22. @ Lindsay. I probably meant Fairfax as a whole had lurched to the left. Take arguably the two biggest “issues” in the country at the moment – the carbon tax and boat people. It’s pro both, if it’s covered at all. If I’m not mistaken, but 60-odd% of Australians are opposed to the carbon tax and something like 90% want tighter border controls. Like it or not, but we choose media that reflects our own opinions. And, hence, why Fairfax is making itself irrelevant (not that Gina’s the answer, mind.)

  23. Lindsay.
    27 Jul 12
    6:02 pm

  24. Sorry WD I do not think you are right on your understanding of the political left or right. However my memory is that the bulk of the population want on shore processing. Regardless of that, I can not see how any of the policies relating to our borders are either left or right. It is a security issue. But Labor and Liberal are very close in what they are suggesting should be done with boat people.
    Nor do I see how it is possible to make the carbon tax (or global warming) left or right. But if you look at the history of putting a price on carbon, it was the Liberal Party that first adopted that policy. Labor was much slower off the mark. Both Labor and Liberal have the same carbon reduction target, and the popularity of putting a price on carbon was very high a few years back.
    Also News Limited has done far more in reducing their own carbon pollution than Fairfax has done while their editorial policies are totally irrational.

  25. Logic
    27 Jul 12
    10:09 pm

  26. Fairfax getting a real caning on Mumbrella last few weeks …

  27. Des Dugan
    28 Jul 12
    11:19 am

  28. I picked up the Sun-Herald last week for the first time in 10 years and could not get over two things. The first was the layout (it was frightened of itself) and second at times I thought I was reading the Financial Review – it was just as boring. I remember when the Sun Herald screamed “read me” but now it whimpers “would you like to read me?”

  29. Sebastian
    28 Jul 12
    3:50 pm

  30. I stopped reading the SMH ages ago because of its left-leaning, PC tripe.

  31. Lindsay.
    29 Jul 12
    9:24 am

  32. The problems at Fairfax are not political. It is their inability of knowing what is news. They seem to think trivia is substance. None of the changes they have made over recent times suggest things will change anytime soon.

  33. Good moron
    30 Jul 12
    10:13 am

  34. As a prelude to digital subscriptions next year, are there any figures for how many of the 364,401 users of the SMH iPad app have registered for a Fairfax account to enable them to see restricted content like ‘The Sydney Magazine’ for free?

  35. Harry
    30 Jul 12
    1:05 pm

  36. As a Fairfax subscriber the radical change to the layout turned a readable paper into an absolute mess with a mass of journalist’s opinion pieces. All the layout change did was accelerate readership decline. A quality Sunday paper with less journalist opinion pieces and some hard journalism may be worth reading but when subscriptions come up afraid it is nolonger worth the money. With the current Fairfax Board not having a clue about journalism it can only decline. Sad.