It's not only politicians who know how to "take out the trash"; media companies, too, have canny ways of minimising bad news about themselves. Just look at News Limited, which unveiled its new metered paywall strategy on Wednesday -- two days before the release of the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures. The ABC figures answer a question media watchers around the world have long asked: how many digital subscribers does Melbourne's Herald Sun have? The answer: 26,436. The Hun went behind a "freemium" paywall in March 2012 -- a closely watched development given it was one of the first mass-market papers in the world to do so. News Ltd had good reasons for choosing The Hun: it's the country's biggest-selling weekday paper and has unique content -- such as the SuperCoach fantasy football competition. But the months went by, News stayed schtum about its results, and a consensus emerged the experiment had been a flop. And so it was. For a paper that still sells over 400,000 copies a day, 26,000-odd paying online readers isn't a cracking conversion rate. No wonder a metered model is on the way for News' tabloids. By contrast, The Australian online is going strong with 45,869 digital subscribers compared with around 120,000 print readers. At $12 a month, that equates to around $6.5 million a year in extra revenue. Under the current system, the Herald Sun paywall would bring in around $4 million extra a year. Nothing to sneer at, but not nearly enough to make up for the massive declines in revenues from print advertising and circulation. The latest numbers don't paint a pretty picture for print: total newspaper sales during the March quarter fell by 9.2% compared to the same period last year. Fairfax Media's slimmed-down metro papers continue to shed readers. The Sydney Morning Herald's Monday to Friday circulation slumped by 18.2% year-on-year to 148,037; The Age dropped by 12.6% to 144,277. The Sun-Herald again recorded the biggest fall: it plummeted by 24.4% and is now outsold almost 2:1 by its News Ltd rival The Sunday Telegraph. The Sunday Age declined by 13.6%. Broadsheet holdout The Canberra Times fell by 7.8% on weekdays to 27,132, and the weekends were uglier. The only major newspaper to lift its circulation was The Australian Financial Review's weekend edition, which increased -- yes, increased -- by 18.2%. A snazzy redesign helped but, as The AFR admits today, two "bumper" editions during the audit period gave the paper a boost. Bumpers allow papers to effectively double-count -- sometimes even more -- their copies sold. The Monday-Friday Fin now sells only 64,861 copies, down 8%.