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Fairfax trumps News in race for digital subscribers: audit

Fairfax’s paywalls are more porous, and more expensive to unlock. But its two metro dailies are streaking ahead of News Corp when it comes to digital subscribers.

It’s only been seven months since The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald introduced metered paywalls, but Fairfax has leapfrogged ahead of News Corp in snatching up digital subscribers.

The Australian, on the other hand, introduced paywalls in late 2011, with stablemates the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph following in March 2012. But despite the late start, Fairfax’s titles have already amassed more digital subscribers than their News Corp rivals, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures released this morning. In the December 2013 quarter, just over 57,000 people subscribed to The Australian online, and another 39,380 subscribed to the Herald Sun. Over at Fairfax, 120,043 people have subscribed to The Sydney Morning Herald and another 117,918 to its Melbourne cousin.

Not all newspapers have chosen to reveal their digital circulations to the bureau, and the digital figures for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph are conspicuously absent. But the lower number of digital subscribers for News Corp’s titles must be grating, given its paywall is relatively cheaper (to subscribe to the Oz or the Herald Sun is $4 a week, compared to Fairfax’s $6 to read either the Age or SMH), not to mention more rigid (Fairfax allows readers to read 30 articles every month for free; News Corp does not).

Digital subscriptions are still growing for all titles, one bright spot in a circulation story streaked with red. All large Australian newspapers reported large yearly declines in their print circulation. The Monday-to-Friday editions of The Age and The Australian Financial Review were unusual in losing only about 6% of their print circulation — many newspapers recorded double-digit declines.

The Monday-to-Friday edition of The Australian lost 8.3% of its circulation, now selling just 112,269 copies on average weekday and 242,158 copies on the weekend. The other national paper, The Australian Financial Review, was down 6.4% to 62,455 during the week.

Australia’s best-selling newspapers, The Sunday Telegraph, recorded a 12.4% decline over the year, while sales slumped 12% for its weekday edition to an average of 286,683. The Herald Sun, which sells more copies than the Tele during the week, lost 12.3% of its circulation over 2013, selling 394,597 copies on average. Its Saturday edition lost 11.1% to 395,105 copies.

The newspaper category as a whole declined 11.4% in 2013, a figure comparable to the total decline in magazine sales, which was 11.5%.

But there was some black to be found in the magazine figures. The home and lifestyle magazine category — featuring titles such as Better Homes and Gardens, Home Beautiful and Grand Designs Australia  —  grew 1.4% in total.

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  • 1
    Andrea
    Posted Friday, 14 February 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    And what about the Guardian Australia? I know it doesn’t have a print edition here, but it would be very interesting to know how it fits into the digital circulation figures.

  • 2
    Will
    Posted Friday, 14 February 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    The sooner The Australian bleeds to a rightful death the better.

  • 3
    Peter Evans
    Posted Friday, 14 February 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Well done to Fairfax for getting some decent numbers. Early days but there must be some good value there to sell to advertisers. They’ll have very detailed analytics and know each subscriber’s reading patterns in forensic detail, so targeting advertising and getting more for it must be a big part of their revenue plans.

  • 4
    Raymond Blessing
    Posted Friday, 14 February 2014 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    If the Australian had more objective reporting it would increase its subscribers.

  • 5
    AR
    Posted Friday, 14 February 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    People pay to access the T’graph? Tell me it ain’t true! How would such gibbering morons get their knuckles off the floor long enough to use a keyboard?

  • 6
    Itsarort
    Posted Friday, 14 February 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Ar is right. News Corp is going to have to set-up single ‘click’ access on their web page before statisticians can confidently say that the number of people who WANT the Tele’ online has one-to-one correspondence with the number of people who actually HAVE the Tele’ online.

  • 7
    Percy Pigeon
    Posted Friday, 14 February 2014 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    George Megalogenis is one of my favourite journalists.

    But I simply refuse to subscribe to The Australian if it means subsidising Rupert’s braying right wing disingenues (or indeed, Rupert himself). Never going to happen.

    George, would you consider moving to Fairfax? Please?

    Re Fairfax, I’m not currently a subscriber due to financial circumstances, so currently I subscribe only to Crikey. But I forsee myself becoming a Fairfax subscriber in the not too distant future.

    I see Fairfax’s token right wing partisans as annoying, but mostly clumsily harmless. Amanda Vanstone, Paul Sheehan - obvious right wing trolls are obvious, and unlikely to sway most Fairfax readers.

    But no matter if I have the cash to spare or not, I won’t pay to read the Oz (or the Hun) given the amount of column space purposely given over to destructively mendacious partisan bullshit. Nope. Uh uh.

  • 8
    Percy Pigeon
    Posted Friday, 14 February 2014 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Ha! Silly Percy. Didn’t realise that George had left the Australian. Oh well, I guess I no longer need pine for what (I imagined) was behind Rupert’s paywall.

  • 9
    Carbon Footprint
    Posted Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    So no one wants to read predictable right wing crap, not really news at all.

  • 10
    Posted Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Delighted!

  • 11
    Steven Grant Haby
    Posted Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    These figures are indeed interesting.

    A couple of observations…

    1. Do the figures take into account bulk or corporate subscriptions. For example a company or a library might take out a bulk subscription for x number of readers (i.e. 100 users before the licence limit is reached)

    2. What about news aggregate sites. The library service I work for has an annual subscription to Library Press Display which enables a user to access newspapers from around the world in WYSISWG format (i.e. a PDF version of the print edition) pretty much within an hour or so of the print edition being published.

    It will be interesting to note the trend of the magazine circulation of certain categories in future months given the current economic uncertainty across many sectors.

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