ABCs: Fairfax print decline accelerates as first audited digital numbers are released

Fairfax Media’s metro newspapers have seen some of the biggest percentage circulation slides since audits began with falls of more than 10% for its flagships The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald along with its Sunday titles The Sunday Age and the Sun-Herald.

The company claims the fall is part of a deliberate strategy to move away from unprofitable print copies to digital subscribers.

NSW – print:

In Sydney, Monday to Friday circulation of the SMH fell by 13.6% to 180,960, according to quarterly data for January to the end of March released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The fall marks an acceleration of the title’s 11.94% fall in the last set of numbers.

Rival title The Daily Telegraph, published by News Limited, decreased its Monday to Friday circulation by 1.4% to 336,348.

The SMH’s Saturday circulation fell by 13.8% to 293,234 – the first time it has been below 300,000.

The Saturday edition of The Tele increased its circulation by 0.8% to 327,447.

By contrast, a year ago the SMH led the Tele by 15,367 copies on a Saturday. Now The Tele has moved ahead by 34,213 copies.

The Sun-Herald – whose relaunch only covers the final edition of the audit period – sank by 10.8% to 383,607.

Rival The Sunday Telegraph rose by 0.8% to 609,167 print sales, representing a lead which has widened from 188,000 to 225,000.

NSW – digital:

In the first digital data under the new reporting standard, there were some green shoots for Fairfax, particularly with the Sun-Herald. Its fall of around 47,000 print copies was almost offset by 40,268 digital replica edition sales, which have been included in the ABCs’ audit standard for the first time. However, 15,929 of these have been classified in the school sales category and a further 3,730 in tertiary educational sales. These categories are potentially of less interest to advertisers.

Digital sales of the SMH were 36,816 for Monday to Friday and 40,158 for Saturday. About half were in the school or tertiary education subs sales categories.

Roughly half of the papers’ digital numbers come from standalone sales, and half through a joint print-digital package.

News Limited is yet to report its digital sales under the new ABC standard. Reporting is not compulsory for ABC members until July 1 next year.

A spokesman for Fairfax Media’s metro division said: “Metro Media’s strategy is to focus on profitable print circulation where reader engagement is high and reduce low-yield print circulation. The circulation results reflect that planned strategy.”

The company was due to release an update on its digital audiences across all platforms later today. It was not available at the time of posting.

Victoria – print:

The Monday to Friday circulation of The Age sank by 13.4% to 165,091. The Saturday circulation was down by 12.4% to 241,029.

News Limited rival The Herald-Sun saw Monday to Friday sales fall 3% to 336,348 and Saturday sales drop by 3.5% to 472,047.

The figures mean that for the first time The Herald-Sun has double the sales of The Age.

The Sunday Age saw its circulation fall by 8.6% to 206,068. The Sunday Herald-Sun fell by 5% to 543,400.

The Age had 9,311 replica edition sales from Monday-Friday, 9,369 for Saturday and 9,376 for The Sunday Age.

Victoria – digital:

The Age saw an average of 9,311 digital sales of its Monday to Friday edition and 9,369 for Saturday. The Sunday Age was 9,376.


News Limited’s Advertiser print sales held broadly steady, down 0.6% Monday to Saturday. However the Sunday Mail slipped by 4.5%.


News Limited’s Courier Mail was down 3.9% Monday to Friday and 8.2% on Saturdays. The Sunday Mail was down 6.4%.


SevenWestMedia’s The West Australian fell by 2.5% Monday to Friday and 1.8% on Saturdays.

News Limited’s Sunday Times was down 2.8%.


Fairfax Media’s Australian Financial Review has slowed its weekeday decline with a fall of a relatively controlled 3% to 70,518. However the weekend edition fell by 11.8% to 69,057.

In a statement, the AFR said: “A three-pronged strategy to fix digital pricing, set the national agenda and revolutionise the customer experience is well underway at the Financial Review. While newspaper circulations are soft, and not helped by the tough conditions experienced in the financial sector, online engagement with the Financial Review is at an all time high and the launch of the App for iPad is only a few weeks away.”

Brett Clegg, CEO of the Financial Review Group said: “We set a new strategy for the Financial Review late last year which is quickly gaining traction. Our new online pricing has delivered thousands of new subscribers in only a few months, we’re breaking stories that have attracted global interest and we’ve actively reengaged with the business constituency to aggressively tackle the national agenda.”

Meanwhile News Limited’s The Australian was down 1.6% to 127,942, while The Weekend Australian was down 0.8% to 290,323.

Kim Williams, CEO of News Limited, said: “The ABC circulation figures released today are useful in providing guidance on how one important part of the market is performing – namely print media.

“The figures show that newspapers continue to reach more Australians than any other medium – more than 18 million newspapers are sold each week.

“However, the circulation figures critically miss an increasingly important part of how millions and millions of Australians consume media each day – namely digital media. Our brands have never reached as many people as they do today across print, tablet, web and mobile.”


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