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ABCs: SMH drops 12%, rival accuses Fairfax of ‘abandoning’ print

The Sydney Morning Herald was the biggest major casualty in the latest round of figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, losing 12% of its weekday circulation in a year.

In another difficult period that saw newspaper circulations atrophy by 4% overall, the Fairfax title’s circulation fell from 209,644 to 184,613 between December 2010 and December 2011.

By contrast, The Herald’s main rival The Daily Telegraph fared reasonably, down by 1.84% to 347,722 between Monday and Friday.

Daily metro and national paper sales:

Q4_2011_m_to_fWeekend newspaper sales:

abcs_q4_2011

Paul Whittaker, editor of The Daily Telegraph attacked the performance of his rival in a press release saying: “These results prove that there is plenty of life left yet in print even though our main competitor has effectively abandoned the field for their print products.”

Australia’s largest circulating newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, was among a handful of winners. The title added over a thousand readers, nudging up its circulation by 0.18% to 618,950.

Its main competitor, the Sun-Herald fell by more than 8% to 406,470.

Neil Breen editor of The Sunday Telegraph said: “Never before has The Sunday Telegraph been so dominant over our competitor. To lead by more than 212,000 copies every week and have in excess of 60% market share are numbers we have aspired to over many years of effort.’’

In a survey that made for gloomy reading for Fairfax, the Saturday edition of the Sydney Morning Herald was also among the biggest casualties, falling by 7.73% to 314,683.

The Age on Saturday, The weekday edition of The Age, The Sunday Herald Sun and The Courier Mail on Saturday also saw their circulations fall by around 6%.

The Australian Financial Review provided some reason for cheer for Fairfax, its weekend edition growing circulation by 3.7%. However, the publisher admitted this was mostly due to “the phasing of bumper editions”, and said it expected a decline in the next audit period.

News Limited will be well pleased with the performance of its mastheads, with the Monday-to-Friday edition of The Australian up 1.42% to 131,000 and the Weekend Australian up 1.28%.

Overall, Sunday newspapers suffered the most, down 4.61%. Metro, weekday and weekend were also down around 4%. However, Australia’s national newspapers showed signs of a slight rebound, gaining 0.25%.

The Newspaper Works CEO Tony Hale said the results were “within expectations” and reflected the poor retail environment.

In a press release, he said: “The easing in printed newspaper sales in the latest quarter shows the decline has stabilised, as we anticipated it would, and is in line overall with the previous two quarters.Put simply, the ABC printed newspaper figures do not paint a complete picture of newspaper consumption among Australians, who are turning to digital platforms in ever growing numbers.”

Fairfax was invited to respond to the comments about it abandoning print but did not do so.

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