Both Roy Morgan’s latest readership figures (for the year to March 2007) and the Australian Bureau of Circulation’s newspaper and magazine sales figures (for the March quarter) have surfaced over the last couple of days.

So too, newspaper reaction to the figures. And all the usual spin is in play. If you can’t rely on circulation figures, cite readership figures (or vice versa), if you can’t rely on either of them, cite internet traffic. Where possible, knock your competitor. If necessary, knock the statistic gatherers’ methodology.

The SMH.

SPIN: Fillip for Fairfax as Herald gains. Fairfax Media expects circulation gains for The Sydney Morning Herald to continue after reporting strong figures for the first three months of the year. The average daily circulation of the weekday Herald in the March quarter was 212,500, of which 11,900 copies were sold to schools, airlines, hotels and at events. The weekend issue’s average sale was 370,000, which means it is now outselling the Saturday edition of The Daily Telegraph by 24,000 copies.

REALITY: Average daily sales are up on the December quarter figures. Approximately 200 extra readers for The SMH and 10,000 for Saturday’s edition. Sales stayed put of 510,000+ for the Sun-Herald (ABC). Readership up for the weekday edition, down for Saturday, says RM.

The Daily Telegraph

SPIN: No story in today’s edition from our scans. Editor David Penberthy unusually quiet.

REALITY: Ave daily sales down for The Daily Telegraph: 391,832 (Dec 06 quarter) to 372,000+ (March 07 quarter), a difference of around 5%. Sales for Saturday’s edition increased from 341,917 to 346,000+ (ABC). Readership down by around 50,000 for both weekday and Saturday editions.

The Australian

SPIN: Page two headline reads “Choice of new readers”. The Australian has enjoyed the biggest increase in weekday readership of any newspaper in the country, says the paper. “The only other national weekday paper, The Australian Financial Review, suffered a 3.3% decline.” As for the Audit Bureau of Circulation data (results not mentioned) it’s “only the third quarterly set of circulation figures since new audit rules were introduced last year, which means there are no comparable figures.”

PS. News Limited’s magazine figures make it the third-largest magazine group by readership share thanks to thanks to the purchase of FPC and sister titles, reports The Oz. “Australia’s largest magazine publisher, PBL Media’s Australian Consolidated Press, suffered a small decline in readership share.”

REALITY: The AFR‘s average net paid sales increased for the latest quarter (Jan-March 07) by 242 copies per day: 86,287 to 86,529. The Oz‘s went down: 134,610 to 129,000+, a decrease of close to 11%.

The Financial Review

SPIN:The AFR‘s readership results remain strong, particularly in the core AB demographic, which represents over 70% of our readers,” Fairfax Business Media chief executive Michael Gill said. “However Fairfax Business Media continues to question the ability of Morgan to accurately measure our core audience — senior business executives.” (Fairfax website visits up sharply, AFR, p66)

REALITY: Readership is down according to Roy Morgan, as noted by Neil Shoebridge in the same article, Weekday readership of the AFR fell 3.3% during the 12 months to 31 March; readership of the Weekend AFR was down 6.2%. Interestingly, the Fin doesn’t note its slight weekday circulation increase. Weekend sales have fallen an average 1,253 copies since the December quarter.

The Age

SPIN: Age readership at 13-year high. Letter from editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan to “Dear Readers” says “Figures released today consolidate The Age’s position as one of Australia’s fastest growing newspapers”. Monday-Friday readership up 20,000, Sunday readership up 37,000, online monthly unique browsers up 27% to 1,904,711 for theage.com.au (source: NNR Market Intelligence Domestic — March 2007). Saturday Age readership “down marginally”.

REALITY: The Saturday Age‘s readership is down for the year to March 2007 by 37,000 (988,000 to 951,000).

Herald Sun

SPIN: The Herald Sun still sells more than everyone else, especially The Age. The Herald Sun “also has the highest readership, by a big margin”.

 REALITY: True but readership and sales are down for the Herald Sun‘s Mon-Fri edition. Sales dropped by around 10,000 copies (535,000+ to 525,000+) and readership fell from 1,497,000 to 1,468,000. The Saturday edition is looking robust with sales rising by approximately 5,000 in the last quarter and readership up 9,000 to 1,401,000 for the 12 months to March 2007.