ABCs: Tele doubles SMH sales as Fairfax accuses News Limited of boosting giveaways

News Limited’s The Daily Telegraph now outsells its Fairfax Media rival the Sydney Morning Herald by two-to-one on weekdays, new numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations today reveal.

The SMH saw its average circulation fall by 14.75% to 170,666 in the April to June quarter compared to the same period last year. The Tele fell by 1.36% to 350,059 in the ABCs.

The market will not be surprised to see dramatic falls across most Fairfax Media mastheads, as the publisher has been releasing additional monthly audience data which pointed in that direction. Fairfax argues that it has focused on retaining profitable copies while ditching those it costs money to circulate and print. 

The biggest metro or national newspaper fall in the country came from Fairfax’s Sunday tabloid The Sun-Herald, which dropped 18.66% for the quarter to 346,960. Again this result had been telegraphed in Fairfax’s audience reports which saw the paper’s decline accelerate in June to 23%.

ABCs circ news Q2

Fairfax’s Victorian titles also saw declines. The Age’s Monday to Friday sales fell by 14.01% while The Sunday Age was down by 14.56%.

But there were encouraging signs at Fairfax’s Australian Financial Review which appears to be stabilising. It lost 3.67% of weekday sales and 5% of Saturday sales – a much improved performance. Financial Review Group CEO Brett Clegg was bullish about the title’s digital growth. He said: “Print circulation growth in mining states such as West Australia has been offset by ongoing job losses in the finance industry in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the inevitable shift over time to digital. Pleasingly our growth on that front is nothing short of explosive. Our digital subscriptions – including print bundles and iPad app sales – are up over 150 per cent in 6 months and traffic to has risen exponentially in 2012.”

Only one title in the whole country – Seven West Media’s The West Australian – put on circulation. it was up 0.2%

However, News Limited’s sales falls were relatively low although the Herald Sun lost more than 25,000 weekday sales, a drop of just over 5%.

Fairfax claims that The Daily Telegraph and The Australian maintained circulation by giving away cheap and free copies. It said:

“The Daily Telegraph and The Australian are claiming only slight reductions in their print circulation figures.

“Yet an analysis of their sales channels reveals that major jumps in high volume, low yield circulation have propped up their claimed results to mask a slump in retail sales.

“Their figures conceal a major switch into high-volume channels.

“Fairfax metro dailies in Sydney and Melbourne have been shedding their exposure to these unprofitable channels since 2011 and raising prices as the publisher seeks to achieve sustainable circulation for its print business.”

ABCs Q2 2012 weekend news



  1. Me
    10 Aug 12
    8:55 am

  2. Mumbrella (and ad folks) – how reliable are the digital numbers?

    We all know puffing takes place in print, the schools around my area all have thirty copies a day of the local rag lying around unread.

    But what about online? It’s so much easier to fake. Hell, with the right scripting, a modified LOIC and a bit of TOR abuse, even a dummy like me could generate a few thousand “unique visits” per day.

    Throw in the questionable auto-refresh and auto-start tactics of some and it all starts to look very wonky.

    Do you trust the ABC’s digital stats?

  3. Vonnegut
    10 Aug 12
    10:21 am

  4. We know that digital is unprofitable. So what they’re really saying is that the restructuring flagged yesterday by news is actually a funeral parade for newspaper businesses

  5. Heather Craven
    10 Aug 12
    10:53 am

  6. @ Me, the data released by the ABC today represents the sales of audited magazines and newspapers across print and digital editions, and does not include website traffic. There are two new reports that detail the types of digital formats sold and separate reporting for mastheads that reveals the de-duplicated sales by channel and the total number of sales for a masthead. Visit the Resources area of for further detail about what qualifies for ABC Print and Digital reporting.

  7. Anonymous
    10 Aug 12
    11:44 am

  8. Who is Brett Clegg fooling? He is giving the web site to print subscribers. So it is not growth at all. The Monday to Friday curc is his business base and it’s caving.
    If anything is explosive it’s most likely the red ink supply in his finance department.

  9. John Grono
    10 Aug 12
    5:06 pm

  10. Me. You display a misunderstanding of the difference between ABC audited sales and readership data.

    ‘Sales’ represent the ‘copies’ out in the market that can potentially be read, whereas ‘readership’ includes copies that are free, passed-on etc and ‘read’. This counts the same in the print and the digital world

    A lot of time was spent working out how in a digital world you could capture ‘a sale’. Basically, unless there is a financial transaction (e.g. a credit card payment, PayPal payment, iTunes payment etc) then it doesn’t count. Any free sign-ups are out.

    Those ‘puffy’ copies you see in schools – which are broken out and reported separately by the way – must be supported by written evidence that someone at the school ordered the copies (on behalf of the kids – selling to schoolkids is not a good look). The same goes for the uni copies – the student must sign-up for and pay for their discount card. If they choose to pass the card to someone else, or even not use it, there was still an offer ‘at a price’ that was taken up and paid for It’s called pass-on. If they are still not used the remaining copies are removed from the total as a ‘returned copy’.

    Before, anyone leaps in and says but they are not paying full price – neither does anyone who has a magazine subscription. That is how many markets work – buy more and we’ll reduce the price. ‘Full-price’ logic would say that a magazine subscriber was ‘worth less’ than a casual news-stand purchase. Rubbish. To extend that ‘logic’ would mean that every non-subscribing on-line consumer was worthless. Again rubbish.

    We all know that online code can be easily gamed. Hence the digital watchdog to ensure that tricks like the ones you refer to are detected and that site is ineligible for reporting. Additionally click-stream analysis can detect things like multiple frames as the ping is at such a constant interval it is clearly not a human interaction. AP and AR are tricky issues – on SOME sites AR is essential (e.g. Cricinfo, AFL etc) but in the main it is not. AP is much harder to justify. Clear disclosure that traffic to sites that insist on AP is clearly needed.

    But if you want to look for the MOST overstated metric in the market, you need look no further than ‘Monthly Unique Browsers’. Please tell me that you are not a publisher that sells based on Monthly UBs.

  11. Bleeding in the gutter
    11 Aug 12
    9:43 pm

  12. Another fail by Fairfax.

  13. Empathy Guy
    12 Aug 12
    6:59 pm

  14. I like way John Grono leaps in on each of the occasions that someone mentions the dubious nature of newspaper and mag audits. John: I feel you, man.
    What I think John also knows in his heart of hearts is that the numbers shed rapidly by Fairfax recently are just an elimination of expensive fake circulation. And that the amazing consistency of certain titles (let’s take The Oz, shall we), may in all probability be not a measure of the willingness of the public to part with $1.70.
    One thing that I do not question is his implied doubts about online metrics. They are shabby and generally useless (if not tricked fakery) because they tell you nothing about the engagement of the audience – and therefore the likely value of any ad placement.
    The Fairfax titles are all losing engagement very rapidly. Some are effectively dormant from a commercial (advertiser) view. News is down on its uppers in its monopoly markets and really is just hanging on in the Hun and Tele.
    Rates will crash further. Then others of us will share the doom.