When the newspaper circulation figures are released, the papers usually
find something positive to report about their own results or ignore
them all together – but for most metropolitan papers it was a struggle to put a positive spin on the latest figures.

The figures released for the six months to December 31, 2003, show
newspapers are struggling around the country but it was a strong result
for the Melbourne papers with the both The Age and the Herald Sun
boosting circulation over all seven days.

Today on page 2, the Hun bragged, “The Herald Sun has again
strengthened its position as the Australia’s most popular and
successful daily newspaper” as it saw its weekday circulation rise to
553,000, an increase of 1,000 copies on the previous year.

It also gloated, “The Age remains Australia’s lowest-selling major metropolitan newspaper”.

But The Age was also reporting strong circulation gains on page 2
today. It increased weekday circulation by 1.9 per cent to 197,040,
“easily the best performance of any metropolitan newspaper in terms of
year-on-year growth”.

The Sydney papers both suffered falls; The Daily Telegraph’s weekday
circulation fell 2.1 per cent and the Sydney Morning Herald down 3.5
per cent and 4.5 per cent on Saturday and Sunday respectively – the
nation’s biggest drops.

The SMH buried the story on the last page of business below the fold,
with the headline “Herald resists the trend” – describing its weekday
circulation drop of “only” 0.1 per cent as “held ground”.

The Sunday Telegraph ran a page 3 story under the headline “Thank you
to all our readers” (February 15), really rubbing it into the
Sun-Herald that it had increased its lead over its arch-rival to more
than 200,000 copies a week. The Sunday Tele didn’t miss the opportunity
to higlight the fact that the Herald’s 4.5 per cent drop took its
circulation to the “lowest in that newspaper’s 50-year history”.

The Courier Mail was also down 1.8 per cent (Mon-Fri) and 1.4 per cent
(Sat) but a quick scour of today’s edition didn’t turn any mention of
the result.

The Advertiser suffered the biggest drop in weekday circulation down 2.4 per cent.

We’d love to hear from subscribers around the country on the coverage in the papers we haven’t mentioned. Send them in to [email protected].

The Australian had the most comprehensive coverage – with a big table
displaying all the circulation changes – despite suffering a drop of
1.9 percent in weekday circulation and 1.4 per cent on the weekend.
It’s good to see The Oz treating the release of the figures as a
legitimate media news story rather than just an opportunity to blow its
own trumpet.

Read Sally Jackson’s report here.

The Fin Review also had balanced coverage, commenting that “a lack of
big news stories hurt the newspaper sector” in the second half of last
year. The Fin’s circulation was down 1.5 percent on weekdays and 1.4
per cent on weekends.

Regional papers showed the biggest gains with the Newcastle Herald
boosting weekday sales 4.4 per cent, while the Gold Coast Bulletin’s
weekday figures were up 4.1 per cent.


The response are already coming in:

What about APN News and Media?

Dear Crikey,

With regard to today’s sealed section on newspaper circulations, you
incorrectly note that the Newcastle Herald and the Gold Coast Bulletin
topped the regional growth stakes. In fact, APN News & Media’s
Sunshine Coast Daily (up 7%) and Fraser Coast Chronicle (up 5%) were
again the market leaders for regional circulation growth. For the
Fraser Coast Chronicle it is the third consecutive December survey of
greater than 5% growth.


Richard Newsome
Communications Director
APN News & Media Ltd

“Great news” reports the Courier Mail

The Courier-Mail finally ran a report on
the circulation figures on Monday, 16 February, and put its performance in the
context of the total daily newspaper sales in Queensland. It described itself as
“Queensland’s newspaper powerhouse” and said its daily sales were “close to the
combined sales of every other daily newspaper in the State.

The report appeared
on page 3 and a table appeared on Page 19, comparing the second half figures for
2002 and 2003 for the Courier and the 13 regional dailies that belong
to the Audit Bureau (the Warwick Daily News does not belong). The
Sunday Mail, Brisbane, reported yesterday (under a heading of “Great
news”) that it was still the second-biggest selling newspaper in Australia,
but it provided no comparison with its performance in the second half of 2002.
Its sales fell a few hundred in 2003.


Rod Kirkpatrick
Editor, the Australian
Newspaper History Group Newsletter

Fairfax subscription section to blame?

Re newspaper circulation, perhaps the SMH woes could partly be ascribed to the incompetence of the subscription section?

I recently set up a new home delivery account with the SMH, Daily Tele
and Australian. The News Ltd papers arrived with a thud the next
morning but despite repeated calls, Fairfax is yet to deliver nine days


Peter Fray

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