ABCs: Education sales drop sees Fairfax digital subs down on last quarter as print slides again

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.32.17 pmFor the first time since it introduced its paywall Fairfax Media has seen quarter on quarter declines in its digital subscriptions for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

The mastheads both saw declines in the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures with The Age shedding 6,306 digital subscriptions (down 4.87 per cent) while the Herald shed 1,572 (down 1.18 per cent).

The news comes as most of the uptake of most digital offerings continued to level off at around 5-10 per cent year on year, with the Herald Sun recovering from last quarter’s decline in digital subscriptions to post a 6.95 per cent quarterly rise, coinciding with the start of the AFL season.

QoQ DigitalMost of the loss in Fairfax’s digital subs appears to have come from the Fairfax’s highly discounted education offering, which allows schools to buy access to a year’s worth of digital replicas at a large discount.

A spokespeson for Fairfax acknowledged the fall in digital subscriptions explaining: “March quarter education sales across both print and digital will generally be lower than the December quarter because of how academic calendars run.

“Schools generally finish the week prior to Christmas, but don’t start back until the last week of January or the first week of February. Additionally, education orders don’t start coming in until the various school terms commence.”

“Fairfax Media will continue to focus on profitable circulation for all its mastheads,” said the spokesman in a statement.

The full year comparison shows The Age up 9.7 per cent in weekday digital subscriptions, while weekday print subscriptions have fallen 11.90 per cent.

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It was a similar picture at the Sydney Morning Herald with the newspaper posting more moderate digital weekday year-on-year growth of 5.7 per cent, while the print editions fell 11.3 per cent on weekdays and slightly less on weekends.

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Over at News Corp The Australian was up 8.8 per cent year-on-year in digital subscriptions to 67,561 while its weekday print product now sits just above the 100,000 mark falling, 6.5 per cent to 104,165.

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Among its metropolitan tabloid titles News Corp still refuses to release digital subscription data for the Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail and Adelaide Advertiser.

However, the publisher commenced an aggressive promotion in the quarter giving consumers Samsung tablets when they sign up for a one year digital subscription.

This plus the return of Victoria’s major sporting code AFL boosted the Herald Sun in digital – up 11.1 per cent year-on-year.  Print declines remained constant with all of its editions dropping around 8 per cent.

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Looking across the weekday print editions Fairfax’s The Canberra Times posted the biggest fall of this survey with a 16.5 per cent year-on-year decline, now hovering just above the 20,000 copies mark.

It was far from the only newspaper to post double digit print declines with Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald and News’s Herald Sun and NT News also in the club.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.44.49 amThe Daily Telegraph is rapidly approaching the 250,000 mark in weekday print sales with a decline of 7.7 per cent, while the West Australian had the smallest weekday decline of 4 per cent.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.45.35 amHowever this survey saw Seven West Media’s The West Australian’s Saturday edition fall below the 250,000 sales watershed, dropping 7.40 per cent.

Most Saturday papers posted similar losses with the exception of the two territory newspapers, with the Canberra Times falling 11.1 per cent and the NT News falling 14.2 per cent to have a Saturday circulation of 18,999.

Among the Sunday newspapers the Sunday Telegraph remains Australia’s highest selling newspapers with 466,976 editions sold, but continues to decline after passing the half million mark back in August.

While the Sunday Tele was down 8.5 per cent its rival the Sun-Herald nearly doubled this with a 13.5 per cent fall to 222,873 copies.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.46.21 amThe Sun Herald was far from alone with a number of other Sunday newspapers posting between 8 and 11 per cent declines.

National business newspaper the Australian Financial Review had a 7.5 per cent fall on weekdays, while its weekend edition appears to have arrested the double digit declines of 2014, posting only a 1.3 per cent drop to a circulation of 61,911.

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Fairfax refuses to release digital subscription numbers for the AFR.

In a statement on the figures News Corp Australia CEO Julian Clarke said: “The latest ABC circulation data shows our strong growth in digital subscriptions, with Mon-Fri net paid digital sales up 8 per cent year on year. This includes 9 per cent growth at The Australian and 11 per cent at the Herald Sun.

“Although circulation of printed newspapers has declined, it is offset by the ongoing growth of digital readership.”

He pointed to the latest Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA) data which showed the publisher had 15.1m readers across its metro and national masthead last month.

“These numbers affirm our position as Australia’s number one publisher,” he added.

Nic Christensen 


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