The decline of print newspapers has continued with the latest circulation numbers once again showing significant year-on-year drops for Fairfax Media and News Corp Australia, despite a recent major marketing push by the two publishers to lift sales.
According to figures released today by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, weekday sales of The Sydney Morning Herald fell 17 per cent to 141,699 from 170,666 for the same period last year and The Age went down 16.2 per cent from 169,582 to 142,050. The drop for each title comes despite the shift to a tabloid or “compact” format in March which was supported by one of the company’s biggest marketing pushes in recent history.
Comparing the second quarter of 2013 to the first quarter, the Herald’s weekday circulation fell 4.2 per cent to 141,699 compared with 148,037. The Age’s weekday edition also fell 1.5 per cent to 142,050 compared with 144,277 in the first quarter of the year.
In a statement, Fairfax said it was pleased with the overall result of the shift to a compact format. “The compact versions of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age pack a punch. Our readers love them,” said Allen Williams, managing director of Fairfax’s publishing division, Australian Publishing Media. The weekend editions have also fared badly with the Saturday edition of the Herald down 20.2 per cent to 233,335 compared to the same period last year while the stable’s Sydney Sunday paper the Sun-Herald is down 20.4 per cent to 276,172.
Fairfax has previously said that such large falls in circulation were a result of a program it has put in place designed to reduce unprofitable distribution of newspapers to universities, hotels and airlines however media analyst Steve Allen questioned this logic.
“They started that program more than two years ago,” said Allen. “Shortly after that we saw double digit declines and we would have expected these unprofitable subscriptions would have been terminated within 12 months.”
“You might allow six months grace but we are now well past that.”
News Corp has also made a concerted effort to boost sales in recent months with an aggressive outdoor advertising campaign which saw covers from the Sydney and Melbourne tabloids displayed on billboards. While quarter-on-quarter there has been a small uplift for Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph, with sales up from 305,132 to 310,724, weekday circulation is still down year-on-year 11.2 per cent.
Other tabloids in News Corp’s stable have recorded falls between 8.8 per cent 13 per cent.
Melbourne’s The Herald Sun recorded a 10.3 per cent fall with a circulation of 416,027 down from 463,543.
Queensland’s The Courier Mail fell 8.8 per cent, South Australia’s The Advertiser dropped 10 per cent and Tasmania’s The Mercury saw a decline of 7 per cent.
News Corp’s weekend papers also suffered falls with the Sunday Telegraph losing 11.2 per cent, the Sunday Herald Sun down 8.2 per cent and the Sunday Mail dropping 9.3 per cent.
Nationally, The Australian fell 9.8 per cent in its weekly circulation and 10.8 per cent for its weekend edition. The national broadsheet recorded a weekday circulation of 116,655 compared with 129,363 for the same period last year. Weekend circulation fell to 254,891 compared to 285,644 last year.
The weekday edition of The Australian Financial Review fell 6.8 per cent from 71,061 to 66,220 while weekend circulation fell 14.7 per cent from 75,575 to 64,478.
Both Fairfax and News Corp were reluctant to comment on the falls with both publishers instead wishing to promote Monday’s launch of the new readership metric emma.
In a statement, a News Corp spokesman said: “We are looking forward to Monday’s launch of new readership measurement emma. It will deliver a much more accurate measurement of what Australians are actually consuming across all platforms. emma provides the accuracy and detail that advertisers want, and that will help ensure their campaigns are effective.”
CLICK ON TABLES TO ENLARGE
For more news from today’s ABCs, download Encore and read the fully interactive feature. Encore is free for tablet devices. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.