The latest newspaper circulation results offer a grim reality check for both Fairfax and News Corporation Australia. Fairfax's metropolitan papers continue to bleed sales, despite the shift to commuter-friendly compact formats. News' biggest-selling papers recorded unprecedented double-digit circulation drops year-on-year. And monopoly status is offering no protection for regional papers, which are rivalling their big-city brethren for circulation declines.
How strange it is to remember Australian papers were holding relatively steady
only three years ago, bucking the downward trend in the US. Now we've reached the point of contagion: total newspaper circulation slumped by 11.2% year-on-year in the June quarter, with no papers picking up paid sales.
The industry has responded to the results with a mixture of silence and what looks like magical thinking. News Corp kept schtum on the figures; so did industry group The Newspaper Works, which will no longer comment on print-only data. News and Newspaper Works are hyping the Monday arrival
of new cross-platform readership measure emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia), which has been developed for the industry by Ipsos Australia. Some advertisers may wonder about paying the piper to call the tune, but that'd be too cynical, wouldn't it?
The Australian reports the figures
today under the overly optimistic headline "Digital news surge offsets print's decline". There's no doubt the Oz
's digital subscription model is performing strongly with 51,213 sales -- up from 45,869 last quarter. But otherwise there's little to crow about, with the country's top-selling paper, the Herald Sun
, recording a meagre 30,624 digital sales for the quarter. And in private Fairfax big-wigs aren't doing cartwheels about the money coming in from The Age
and The Sydney Morning Herald
metered paywalls. The next survey will give better insights into how News and Fairfax's paywall strategies are faring.
In the land of the dead trees, Fairfax Media
recorded another poor quarter. The weekday Sydney Morning Herald
was down 17% year-on-year to 141,699 and is now outsold by southern sibling The Age
, which fell by 16.2% on weekdays to 142,050. The Saturday SMH
(once overflowing with classified ads) slumped by 20.2% to 233,335; The Saturday Age
fell by 14.7% to 203, 753. The SMH
and The Age
also shed copies quarter-on-quarter, showing any circ boost from the shift to compact was shortlived. Perennial under-performer The Sun-Herald
fell by 20.4% and The Sunday Age
slipped by 11.7%.
The Australian Financial Review
fell by 6.8% to 66,220 on weekdays and by 14.7% on Saturdays (reversing an anomalous jump in the previous quarter).
Circulation for Fairfax's regional papers also plummeted: The Canberra Times
fell by 8.4% Mon-Fri to 26,153, The Newcastle Herald
by 11.5% to 36,368 and The Illawarra Mercury
by 15.7% to 18,229. Here are the average daily print circulation figures for the June quarter, compared to the same quarter for the previous year: