A former News Limited executive writes:

I found it strange that News should blame the Sunday Tele’s circulation loss on the Sun-Herald giveaways at the movie theatres. The S-H has been giving away copies at the movies for years. Somehow, the giveaways didn’t block the rise and rise of the STele under Jeni Cooper (O’Dowd), who proved an excellent and highly successful editor. Now that the STele has taken a dip in sales, it is disingenuous to suddenly blame the S-H
giveaways. The problem (whatever it is) lies elsewhere. As for Fairfax
up, News down: my rough recollection is that the general trend over the
past few years has been in the opposite direction, so I guess that we
are now seeing a bit of a correction, in both directions.

A Melbourne golf club member writes:
Apropos rising circulation figures for The Age
and the contentious issue of promotional giveaways, I note with some
interest at my golf club, that a swag of freebies are left on Saturdays
for the edification of members and I feel sure that great club and all
as it is, is not the sole reciopient of such largesse. And there are a
hell of a lot more golf clubs around than cinemas!

A sweaty Sydney reader writes:
I
read with interest the stats on newspaper sales because towards the end
of last year I noticed that the gym I go to in Sydney (Fitness First in
Bond St) had a small rack of Fairfax papers, free for gym members. This
rack progressively grew into a stand, then into a stand with bundles of
papers beside and is currently an overflowing rack, with bundles of
paper beside it and in a corner near reception there are further
bundles!

A law/economics student at ANU writes:
I was very interested to News Limited Circulation Director Mark Webster crying foul at the Sun Herald
giving away scores of copies of its newspapers, blaming the 4.3% fall
in circulation you reported yesterday on this giveaway. Perhaps the Sunday Tele, and the Daily Telegraph
for that matter, should have a look at their own conduct before they go
around pointing the finger at rival papers and blame them for lost
circulation. At the ANU, and therefore I’m sure at a number of other
universities across ACT/NSW, the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph
are being given away for free, 7 days a week, for the first half of the
year. No ifs, no buts, just pick one up at the campus newsagent each
day and give them your address so they can send you the weekend
editions. Now as you probably know a number of newspapers are giving
students cheap rates on papers, which as far as I’m aware include:

The Australian – $15 for the academic year Australia wide; pick up the weekday copy on campus, have the Weekend Australian delivered to you.

The Sydney Morning Herald – $20 for the academic year in selected NSW/ACT unis; pick up the weekday copy on campus, have the Saturday SMH and Sun Herald delivered to you.

The Age – as above, but for Victorian unis instead.

The Canberra Times
– $20 for the academic year (ACT only); pick up the weekday copy on
campus, have the Saturday edition and Sunday Times delivered to you.

Financial Review
– 50% off for students for a subscription (but still quite expensive!
Maybe subscribe in your last year of study if you must…)

Daily Telegraph – FREE during first semester; pick up weekday copy on campus, Sunday Tele delivered to you.

Now, perhaps granted to the Telegraph
that this is their first foray into the cut-price student market and
the giveaways are only for the first semester, although they aren’t
trying to sell anything for second semester yet which is a bit strange.
Fairfax started last year (but only made it to the ACT with the SMH
this year) from what I’m aware of. But for the News Limited Circulation
Manager to be crying foul about these giveaways? It was News Ltd who
wrote the book on student newspapers – the Oz has been around
on the cheap since 2004 at least (when I started uni). And I’ll bet
they probably did some giveaways before then to help generate interest!
It’s obviously been a very successful scheme for them, since the other
papers have jumped on board. And given the numbers of tertiary students
studying across Australia at the moment, I’m sure it’s a nice little
circulation booster for them as well (especially when I see the piles
of untaken newspapers out the back of the newsagent every day, but I’m
sure they don’t tell their advertisers about that…)

A part-time Sydney student writes:
It’s a bit rich News whinging about Fairfax giving away the Sun-Herald
to cinema crowds on Saturday night. As a part time student, I was
harassed by the News marketers in the Union at the end of the year to
sign up for a year’s subscription of The Australian and because I have greying black hair or something they also threw in a year’s home delivery of the Sunday Tele. So for 15 bucks I get: The Australian from the Union shop Monday to Friday, The Weekend Australian home delivered on Saturday and the Sunday Tele
home delivered Sunday. Pretty good deal? And they have the hide to
whinge about Fairfax dodgy dealings. When I signed up they were doing a
roaring trade. And furthermore there is always a large stack of the Daily Tele outside the Union shop.

CRIKEY:
Fairfax’s latest circulation increases suggest that the company has
sharpened its marketing, under new marketing head and former SMH editor
Robert Whitehead. But does that include finding new ways around the
spirit (if not the letter) of Audit Bureau rules to add heavily
discounted or free papers to the paid circulation numbers? And will the
ABC conduct a independent inquiry into allegations such as those above?
Ah, such impertinent questions.

Peter Fray

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