Relaunched Sun-Herald loses 19% of its circulation

sun herald relaunch coverThe print edition of Fairfax Media’s Sun-Herald has suffered the biggest percentage fall in the newspaper’s history, figures released by the company suggest.

According to Fairfax’s monthly update to the market on its audiences across all of its platforms, the Sun-Herald fell to a new low of 432,617 in May – a drop of 19% on the same time a year before.

As well as the ongoing decline in the print market, a major factor was the company’s shift in strategy to focus on increasing cover price rather than chasing circulation. The price went up from $2 to $2.30 in most of its market and up to $2.50 in northern New South Wales. It is the first time the company has put a regional premium on the Sunday edition.

The monthly numbers – which have not been officially audited – are the first to be publicly available since the Sun-Herald underwent a relaunch which was backed with an extensive marketing campaign.

The Saturday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald fell by 14% to 284,622. The Monday to Friday editions of the SMH fell by 10% to 173,229.

On Monday the SMH’s editor-in-chief and publisher Peter Fray and editor Amanda Wilson resigned as the company begins its restructure.

Meanwhile, Fairfax’s Victorian newspaper The Age also saw drops – with Monday to Friday circulation down by 14%, Saturday down by 13% and the Sunday Age down 14%.

The Age’s editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge also resigned this week.

Official Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers will not be available until mid-August.

Meanwhile, website saw a 24% fall in video streams in May compared to the same period last year, data from the company suggests. The number of video streams fell from just under 7.5m in May 2011 to just over 5.6m last month.

In commentary on its audience report, Fairfax addressed the video streams issue saying:

“While total audience size is growing rapidly, there were fewer individual news stories attracting massive popular interest compared to May 2011. This is reflected in a decline in the number of video streams on Metro Media’s sites. Last year in May, audiences were drawn to the Bin Laden assassination and carry-over from the Royal Wedding. The Sydney Morning Herald’s percentage decline is larger than The Age’s because it enjoyed the bigger rush of visitors at the time of those big breaking news stories last year. Given that The Sydney Morning Herald has more national brand awareness than The Age, it receives the bigger lift in online traffic outside its core audience when big news stories hit and consumers rush to as the most known and trusted brand in online news and current affairs.”

Sister title’s number of video streams also fell, although not as dramatically – down by 6% from 4m to just under 3.8m.

Mobile browsers grew rapidly for both and – up 77% and 79%.

Fairfax continued to show growth of its digital replica editions – Monday to Friday edition sales of the SMH were up to 54,577 in May from an average of 36,816 in the previous quarter. The Age was up from 9,311 to 22,365.


  1. AB
    29 Jun 12
    12:51 pm

  2. they have noone to blame but themselves! they’re archaic views and processes brought them to this place! I tried to subscribe and couldn’t! they have willing buyers that they couldn’t service! after a fax, phone call and email, they still ignored my order request??? any wonder they’re not selling papers!

  3. Megan
    29 Jun 12
    2:06 pm

  4. If they promoted their weekend edition more assiduously in Queensland, I believe they would outsell Murdoch’s weekend papers. Here on the Gold Coast people are screaming for a newspaper – we get the Financial Review for our Queensland news.

    Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

  5. Hoin
    29 Jun 12
    2:16 pm

  6. The Sun-Herald lost its way and began losing circulation in the late 1980s when it abandoned its conservative editorial policy and took a sharp lurch to the left. The same goes for The Sydney Morning Herald as well.

    I could see that the rot had well and truly set in with The Sun-Herald when I cancelled the home delivery in 2003, a delivery which had been in place in our household since the late 1950s when the paper was the biggest selling newspaper in Australia.

    When will Fairfax finally realise that allowing the papers to be run as a sheltered workshop by a collective of left wing journalists in pursuit of some cock-eyed notion of “editorial independence” has brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy and their only hope is to get someone in to run the place who will lay down the law and shift the papers sharply to the Right again.

  7. Ann
    29 Jun 12
    2:24 pm

  8. There will be a clean out of the Board this AGM, either beforehand or during the AGM

    No doubt about it

  9. Ann
    29 Jun 12
    2:25 pm

  10. Yes my son tried to subscribe and they said he was in a non delivery area near Windsor NSW!!

  11. james
    29 Jun 12
    2:45 pm

  12. What do they expect. for 7 day delivery of Sun Herald and SMH old subscription rate $23.00 per month. To renew $39.00 per month. Just to read the journalistic page 2 corrections. Subscription:not renewed.

  13. Geoff Isaac
    29 Jun 12
    3:08 pm

  14. Cut the editorial budget, put the cover price up and then act surprised when circulation tanks. Great strategy. A web site requires quality editorial to drive traffic just as newspapers relied in this for success in the past.

    News is now available for free from millions of sources. Expert opinion and detailed analysis are not. In the long run quality will win, unfortunately quality is a diminishing asset at fairfax.

  15. daviddon
    29 Jun 12
    3:09 pm

  16. Deliveries in Adelaide for two weeks running of the Thursday Age omitted the Green Guide. GG is not the aware, critical paper it once was, and uses the same listings outsource as other papers (silly), but is still a weekly reference for people interested in tv medium. The main section has good reviews and news in film, so the Thursday Age could be a winner in Adelaide, even if we cannot receive it delivered till Friday. Just please give us all of it!

  17. daviddon
    29 Jun 12
    3:18 pm

  18. Holn may be ‘right’ about the Sun-Herald. But isnt there already a Sunday Tele and a Weekend Australian with ‘right’ views’?
    Sunday papers not important to me any way, but as to weekday and Saturday, entirely disagree with Holn’s demands. An uncommitted channel is what A-B readers want and will pay for.
    Clarifying the roles and readerships of the SMH, Age and AFR is what Fairfax board have squibbed for a decade: just where they overlap, where integrate, that analysis has to be accomplished and fast. With digital adjunct, there could be room for two. Three, I do not see use for.

  19. andrew nairn
    29 Jun 12
    4:40 pm

  20. not a good redesign
    and u are going to charge more for it.
    New board please

  21. Lindsay.
    29 Jun 12
    6:02 pm

  22. There must be two different editions of the Sun-Herald being publish as comment by Hoin (3) is getting a left wing edition and here is Stanmore we get the dull old right wing edition.
    I’m am also getting dull editions of the SMH too with far too many stories in it about places that sell cups of coffee. A little less of rugby league and a bit more on the AFL would not be bad either. Back in the old days when newspapers were sell in large numbers than ran more news, less opinion and less rubbish.
    There is a long list of things once done well which have now vanished and it all happened a decade before the Internet arrived.