The latest round of circulation figures show newspapers have once again seen double digit declines in print across major mastheads, with publishers seeking to emphasise signs of positive growth in their digital audiences.
Among the biggest declines in the three months ending in September were weekday editions of News Corp’s Sydney paper The Daily Telegraph, which fell below 300,000 for the first time. The Herald Sun fell through the 400,000 level for both its Monday to Friday and Saturday editions.
At Fairfax Media, both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age posted more than 15 per cent declines in circulation, with 136,623 and 133,981 editions sold Monday to Friday respectively.
The important profit centres of the Sunday and weekend editions again saw large declines with News’ Sunday Telegraph sales down from 600,000 last year to 516,584 this year, a fall of 13.94 per cent.
Rival the Sun-Herald posted a fall of 15.22 per cent compared to the same period a year ago, with a reported circulation of 273,790 editions. However, this was only a slight fall from last quarter’s number of 276,172, suggesting the newspaper is finally beginning to stabilise after a period of ending discounted copies and increasing cover prices.
National newspapers suffered moderately smaller declines in circulation with The Australian down 7.92 per cent for weekdays, and 9.81 per cent for the weekend edition. The Australian has a circulation of 250,186 on weekends and 116,854 on weekdays.
Business newspaper The Australian Financial Review was down 6.07 per cent on weekdays to 64,270 and 9.76 per cent on weekends, with 62,278 copies shifted.
But both major publishers were eager to emphasise signs of growth in their digital subscriptions, although the numbers do not clearly split out digital only subscriptions versus those that came bundled with print.
Allen Williams, managing director Australian publishing media, Fairfax Media, said: “This is the first release to include sales data from our successful launch of digital subscriptions for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age websites, m-sites and tablet apps on July 2, 2013.
“The results have surpassed our expectations and show that our strategy is working – paid digital sales have grown by double to triple digit percentages for both the SMH and The Age.” The audit figures show Fairfax’s The Age has 97,788 digital subscribers, The SMH has 98,177 digital subscribers on weekdays. These figures include people who have bundled digital and print subscriptions as well as digital-only access. No details were given on price, although many educational subscribers previously receiving a highly discounted print edition now receive the same deal for digital.
News Corp CEO Julian Clarke claimed: “The data shows that people are consuming both print and digital versions of our products to satisfy their increasing appetite for news. We are delighted that The Australian continues to grow its weekday paid sales,” he said. The Australian has 55,991 digital subscribers while the Herald Sun has 37,654 digital subscribers.
Media analyst Steve Allen said the growth in digital was positive. “The fact Fairfax has an increase in overall audience of 3.99 per cent is remarkable,” he said. “We can all question whether the digital subscriptions are profitable but they are audited and just like there were historically subsidised copies in print… companies like Fairfax are showing that they have embraced digital in a big way.”
Weekday metro titles, from largest percentage fall:
Weekend metro titles, from largest percentage fall:
National newspapers, highest circulation to lowest: