ABCs: Herald Sun is first title to see drop in digital subscribers

HunThe Herald Sun has become the first masthead to record a quarter-on-quarter decline in digital sales, newly released numbers reveal.

The News Corp title saw the number of subscribers to its paywall fall by 1.85% from 50,360 to 49,425, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations data.

It was the first time that any Australian newspaper site’s audited paywall subscriber numbers have gone backwards, after it put up a paywall, compared to the previous quarter.

The Herald Sun's weekday paywall subscribers

The Herald Sun’s weekday digital subscriber numbers

In a statement, News Corp CEO Julian Clarke said of the Herald Sun’s drop: “The last quarter’s number was negatively affected by a price increase (from $7.99 to $23.99) for people who subscribe via the iTunes app.”

The numbers are part of a trend towards a levelling off of digital subscription take up across the board.

Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald increased its reported digital subscriber numbers by just 1.75 per cent in the quarter to 135,274.

Sydney Morning Herald weekday digital subscriber numbers

The Sydney Morning Herald weekday digital subscriber numbers

And sister publication The Age rose by 1.38 per cent to 135,776 subscribers.

Age's paywall subscribers

The Age’s paywall subscribers

News Corp’s The Australian increased its quarterly digital subscriptions by just 173 subscribers – or 0.26 per cent – to 65,739 subscribers.


The Australian’s paywall subscribers

“The price rise from $4 to $6 per week in digital, which flowed through to all existing members last quarter, resulted in a slight churn uptick as we expected,” said Gray.

“Of course, we also equalised our pricing across all digital entry points, so The Australian’s iTunes price went from $12.99 to $23.99 per month, which also had an impact.

“Clearly with slight volume growth and 50% price growth, our digital subscription revenues are growing rapidly.”

Digital sub Feb 2015

News Corp still does not release digital subscriber numbers for the Daily Telegraph, Courier Mail, Adelaide Advertiser and Hobart Mercury, while rival Fairfax does not disclose the Australian Financial Review’s subscription numbers.

Every metro and national newspaper saw a year-on-year decline in print circulation.

The Australian saw a fall of 6.7 percent of its weekday circulation.

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The Herald Sun saw its print circulation post an 8 per cent decline, shedding 31,213 weekday copies compared to a year before.

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The Age fell by 18.3 percent in its weekday print circulation.

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The Sydney Morning Herald saw a 13 percent year-on-year decline in print while Sunday sister title the Sun-Herald fell 14 percent.

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Fairfax’s title national business newspaper The Australian Financial Review posted an 8 per cent decline in weekday print circulation and an 11.3 per cent weekend decline.

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Amongst the other metro titles, Seven West Media’s The West Australian posted the smallest decline, down 4.8 per cent, followed by the Courier Mail in Brisbane with a 5.3 per cent decline, the Canberra Times which fell 6.7 per cent  and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph which recorded a 6.9 per cent decline.

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The Saturday newspapers saw more consistent decline with most newspapers falling between 8-9 per cent.

The only newspaper to defy that trend was Sydney’s Daily Telegraph which posted only a 3.9 per cent decline in print circulation on the Saturday, recording sales of 275,380.

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Sunday newspapers also posted notable declines across the board with News Corp’s Sunday Telegraph recording a 6.8 per cent decline with sales of 523,123.

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Asked to comment on the print circulation results a spokesman for Fairfax emphasised previous statements promoting the EMMA readership platform: “We continue to grow digital subscriptions, innovate and build value into our subscriptions based on an understanding of the changing needs of our customers.

“Our print circulation is more profitable than ever. Profitable circulation and our fiercely independent journalism and content, ensures that the print editions of our mastheads continue to contribute to the growth and engagement of our audience.

“It’s important to note that circulation data only shows part of the picture of the reach of our print and digital mastheads. Readership shows true engagement with our products.”

News Corp also played down the circulation declines by highlighting its results in the EMMA survey.

“Although circulation of printed newspapers has marginally declined, it is more than replaced by significant growth in digital readership which has driven the 2.5 per cent growth year on year,” said Clarke.

“The recently released EMMA data shows that we have experienced growth in readership of around 2.5 per cent across all platforms over the last 12 months.”

Nic Christensen 


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