Nov 12, 2010

Latest newspaper circulation figures: not a nice set of numbers

Only a fool would say that circulation figures don’t lie, given all we have learned in recent times. But even so, these numbers tell us the dead tree ship is sinking.

Margaret Simons

Journalist, author and director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism

The quarterly newspaper circulation figures are out, and not even the industry association can do much with spin, because they are almost universally bad, with drops Monday to Saturday of around three percent for all titles combined. This follows a previous decline in the June quarter of a similar size.

That’s bad enough by itself, but remember that the circulation figures cover a quarter in which there was an election campaign – which traditionally puts on circulation.

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10 thoughts on “Latest newspaper circulation figures: not a nice set of numbers

  1. Ern Malleys cat

    You ask ‘What gives with the … Tweed Heads Daily!’

    It has been crap for many years but is still the sole daily paper in the area. It is basically a vehicle for real estate agent boosting (many supposed ‘news’ stories that are complete media releases including prices and contact details) and views of National Party councillors.

    But about 2 years ago the free Tweed Echo (a sister to the longer established Byron Echo) came on the scene and provided a very distinct left/green approach and good journalism to boot. It is only weekly but, being free and having good distribution and a very thankful readership, it is now seen as the best source of actual news in the Tweed.

    A couple of major environmental issues – holding a leg of the World Rally Car Championship through sensitive environmental reserves, and Council plans to push ahead with a dam in the most biodiverse valley in the Tweed – that the Echo has campaigned on in opposition to the Tweed Daily, have further delineated the two.

  2. Grinder

    The circulation figures really should be coupled with population growth figures. The West Australian showed an increase, but I’m thinking it may be negligible when put alongside population growth.

  3. Oscar Jones

    The figures are better than expected but it is sad to see The Australian doing so badly. Those at the helm of News Corp are doing themselves no favours by their open and sometimes covert support for the Coalition.

    Once the trust of readers is lost and cannot be regained these days.

  4. harrybelbarry

    ” Dead Tree ship is sinking ” Hope the captain goes down with his ship. Have seen free copies of QLD ‘s Couriermail at the Greenbank RSL public bar/ gaming den. I only read Free papers and there is one good one ” The Epoch Times ” its a World paper. Its only every fortnight at the local shopping mall/Plaza. I don’t like my money flowing to Rupert and use the Library for my mags.

  5. Carolyn Hirsh

    Fascinating that the Illawarra Mercury (Saturday) is the only paper to show an increase in circulation. OMG we’re all ruined. Help.

  6. arth77adsd

    everyone knows why the melbourne age is dying. readers are tiring of its constant hard left bias and politically correct preaching, its not called pravda without good reason
    the age is written by journalists who still have a university undergraduate mentality.

    the paper is deadly dull, as political correctness allows no satire or humour, for fear of offending some minority.

    the age writers should be informing and entertaining their readers, but they compete to flaunt and parade their superior morality and virtue to eachother. soon they and the proofreaders will be the ages only readers

  7. Kevin Herbert

    OSCAR JONES: The Oz’s reporting of the pathetic day to day performance of the Rudd/Gillard train wreck does not make it pro Liberal. To think that Rudd the dud occupies a senior Cabinet position, despite his disastrous performance, is a running sore for Federal Labor.

    Like a growing number of former Labor voters, I feel a profound sense of loss at having this once great party fall into the hands of visionless, robotic dimwits like Rudd & Gillard. They are actually worse than the Rodent… least you knew what he stood for, which like Gillard & co, is nothing in particular other than getting re-elected. I’ve always beleieve that we need more women in leadership roles in politics, but not of the calibre of Gaza Gillard: clearly a person of little substance.
    (Note to Gillard: It’s not the freeking SRC or the law school moot court……it’s our country, and it needs leadership of substance…move over & give a go to Combet or Bowen…or even the drovers dog)

    Sure..some of the born to rule right wing News columnists grate, but then that’s what the Oz editor wants them to do. e.g. Howes, Albrechtsen and that monumental DLP throwback Sheridan….who is actually quite a good writer of colour pieces…please do more Greg, ‘cos your foreign policy analytical powers seem stuck in BAS’s rectum.

    One things for sure: The Age is twice the newspaper that the SMH is now..the SMH is simply boring & obviously understaffed. The Oz is up there with the Age, for range of content, reporter numbers but as Margaret Simons points out, being a good example of a vibrant, western developed democracy newspaper, may not be enough for this media to survive.

  8. freecountry

    The figures are not surprising. Newspapers have made the fatal mistake of chasing what’s popular on the internet (in fact they started doing this even before the internet boom) which is opinion in place of expert analysis.

    People love opinion because it offends them, gets their goat, whatever, and they can reply online and have their say. By comparison, reading new facts or genuine educated analysis of old facts is hard work.

    But here lies the key to why you can’t compete by charging money for access to opinion. There will always be freely available opinion on the internet. In general, people do not require to be paid for opinion so it’s very hard to sell. In most cases, exposure is all the reward an opinion writer needs.

    One of the few advantages newspapers can still leverage is authoritative expertise. Here’s what newspapers could still do if they wanted to, and stand out from the free blog sites:

    1. Be reliable and thorough in fact-checking. Don’t just report the facts that suit your argument, but pre-empt any gotchas (real or alleged) that critics are likely to bring up. An academic or lawyer or doctor is expected to cover all the main information pertinent to a question, not just some choice bits. Newspapers can do the same.

    2. Be educated. There are still journalists graduating from journalism degrees, which teach nothing, or being employed for having a clever way with words. This is death for newspapers because it offers nothing that free blog sites can’t offer better and cheaper.

    But if you know that the economics writer on a newspaper really is an economist, the legal writer really is a lawyer, the science writer really is a scientist (which is not the same as having a “science degree” by the way), and so on, then you have a one stop shop where you know that whatever you read has some credibility. The blogatariat is a free-for-all where hard nosed facts are mixed with wild conspiracy theories, mischievous rumours, and zombie myths, and it cannot compete with a newspaper that maintains collegial standards.

    This also requires some cross-discipline training. And to that end, newspapers should start paying for internal training courses for their editors and journalists, on the fundamentals of economics, science, political theory, public policy, law, education, healthcare, and so on.

    3. Make much more use of op-ed contributions than they currently do. This requires a substantial editorial staff to select and cross-check contributions to ensure they meet standards of credibility. Often the person who knows the real story does not need a journalist middle-man to track him down and pre-digest the story for the masses. Sources often tell the story better in their own words. Good policy suggestions often come not from recognized sources or politicians but from members of the public. Newspapers should greatly expand their letters and op-ed pages. But in doing so they must not try to duplicate the open blog free-for-all model, because that way lies irrelevance and death.

    To sum up in a word, professionalism. A word which fashion has distorted in recent years to mean someone who wears black shoes to work in an air conditioned office. But it once referred to self-governing occupations which wield specialized knowledge and specialized means for upholding the entire occupation’s reputation and credibility. Even if that means requiring members to turn down work or avoid certain profits, or expelling members who fail to uphold those standards.

    The word professionalism has been bandied around for years in the journalism trade. It is now time to professionalize or find another line of work. If newspapers think they can compete with the blogatariat simply by imitating it, they are finished and will soon go the way of the lamplighters and lift attendants.

  9. Robert Tobin

    I am probably a unique character. I have a problem with newspapers. The smell of them makes me want to puke. If have been like that all my life. I can’t be in the same room as someone who is reading a newpaper, especially a broadsheet. Printed material of other kinds, printed on good paper with good ink causes me no problems. I love high quality magazines. I collect Vogue.

    But it is quite obvious that people don’t want printed newspapers when they can get the news on radio, television, the Internet and now on the iPad. I can get it on my new Telstra T-Hub phone. The news generation of Smart Mobile Phones can give one the news.

    It seems to be “old fossils” like Rupert Murdoch who can’t see the writing on the wall. he was born with printer’s ink for blood. He loves the smell, smudgy things and getting the ink from the paper all over his hands. He is starting to embrace the Internet, but at a price to the Web-browsing people.

    I will be glad to see the end of these vintage “stink-rags” polluting cities, rolling in the gutters because people don’t want the free “local rags”. I have reduced the polution by one paper a week by having a notice on my letter box: “NO PAPERS”.

  10. Socratease

    It’s been many years since I purchased a newspaper and on the odd occasion that now I get to see one (waiting rooms, etc) I feel that I could be spending my time better doing something else.

    I have lost the newspaper reading habit forever.

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