The News Ltd media attack dog, John Lehmann, had two goes at the latest newspaper circulation figures in this morning’s Australian. First was a report with the headline “The Australian posts record circulation as rivals stumble.” Meanwhile, his second effort took aim at the departing Fairfax CEO, Fred Hilmer: “Hilmer ending with a whimper as Fairfax sales slip.”

Over at the Fin Review (where circulation eased a touch over the year Monday to Friday and fell more sharply on Saturday), media writer Neil Shoebridge was the point man: “As News Corporation chief executive Rupert Murdoch exhorts his executives around the world to embrace the internet, the media company’s Australian newspaper arm is battling to arrest falling sales of most of its key products.”

Well yes, that’s sort of one story from the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures, but the real story is the continuing weakness in all Fairfax newspapers, bar the Melbourne Sunday Age. And that was the story Neil Shoebridge glossed over until the fifth paragraph of his report.

In fact, if you look at the various figures, you will find that in the biggest media market in the country, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Monday to Friday circulation is now at such a low point that it is exceeded by the Monday to Friday circulation of the News Ltd-owned Courier-Mail in the much smaller Brisbane and Queensland market.

Now that’s a milestone not even the most pessimistic Fairfax employee would have thought possible five years ago. But it’s happened.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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