Digital subscriptions slow in March audit. The March quarter report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, released at midnight, tells us the rate of decline in print sales has slowed, but the rate of growth in digital subscriptions to paywalls has halved. Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy in Sydney described the audit as a “worrying’ for the media companies. He pointed out that the halving in growth in digital subs meant “the overall stemming of masthead losses has stalled”. That shows up a the claim by Julian Clarke, head of News Corp Australia, who was quoted in the Oz this morning saying: “Although circulation of printed newspapers has declined, it is offset by the ongoing growth of digital readership.” Digital readership is a different thing to digital subscriptions — Clarke was referring to the Enhanced Media Metrics Australia readership figures, not the ABC data in that quote.

Allen said his analysis shows that:

“[H]eadline masthead circulation was off 6.60% for the March 15 quarter, with hard copy down 8.34% and digital only up 5.80% to 23.2 million. No newspaper grew in this quarter, through a handful only just down. Like last audit period, Sundays did worst and Nationals did best. Fairfax faired worst in hard copy sales, however a solid improvement on a year ago, plus the decline more than halved after digital sales. News modestly accelerated hard copy decline and made up next to no ground after digital sales wound in. West Australian Newspapers’ (Seven West Media) second digital audit shows their tentative approach to this, trying to hold back the inevitable print declines.”

Looking at the broad figures, the paper with the most digital-only subscribers remains The Sydney Morning Herald Monday to Friday with 97,923 (which fell from the December audit figure), followed by The Age (M-F) with 90,360 (also down from the previous audit), followed by the Sun Herald in Sydney with just over 62,700. The Australian is next with 60,990, which was up from the December figure of 58,845. The SMH has more digital subscribers than actual print sales Monday to Friday, as does The Age (Monday to Friday).

And a brief look at total sales shows the Oz suffered a dip in the year to March to 165,155, from 168,992 a year ago (Monday to Friday), while sales of the Weekend Australian also fell, to 278,853, from 288,738 a year ago. The Monday to Friday Financial Review sales fell 7.5% to 56,160 (and a smaller 1.3% dip in the sales of the AFR Weekend). The AFR though does not break out digital subscriber details like the Oz and other Fairfax papers do. — Glenn Dyer

Oops, who put this here? Mumbrella was yesterday sent a rather interesting graph showing the Financial Review‘s top 25 journalists by subscriber pageviews.

It showed the most popular authors were Street Talk authors Sarah Thompson, Anthony McDonald and Jake Mitchell, followed by political writer Phillip Coorey, finance journo Jonathan Shapiro, political writer Laura Tingle, and Chanticleer columnist Tony Boyd.

Dr Mumbo wrote the chart was widely distributed as part of an “administrative bungle”, but several Fin journos we spoke to this morning said the rankings were regularly distributed by the paper’s digital editor. The chart is one of two sent out, the other being the most-read by casual readers — since the Financial Review moved to a more porous paywall structure as part of its website relaunch, it gets a lot more casual readers these days.

It’s not a perfectly fair ranking, because not all Fin journos write the same style of articles. The aforementioned authors of Street Talk and Rear Window’s Joe Aston, for example, rank quite highly on the list, but write several short articles a day, giving them a great shot of soaking up page-views. — Myriam Robin

Kyle and Jackie O blow it. Kyle and Jackie O made headlines yesterday after interviewing a man who could auto-fellate, and asking him to demonstrate in-studio by licking the chocolate off a Crunchie Bar held between his legs.

We wouldn’t normally bring it up, but will do so to note that the segment aired just after 8am, and it’s the first time the duo have risked an ACMA complaint in months. They’ve been really quite well behaved since moving across to KIIS more than a year ago. KIIS owner Australian Radio Network stood behind its golden duo yesterday, telling news.com.au in a statement that the station had received “no complaints” about the segment.

“This segment came about organically in response to an article on a popular global news site that stated interesting human facts. From that, a segment was developed which became a social experiment with a call out to Sydney listeners.

“Being mindful of the time that this segment was being aired, we ensured that there wasn’t any sexually explicit language.”

Here’s Kyle’s statement to the hapless listener: “Make sure you swallow that Crunchie. Don’t spit it out, you know the rules.” We guess that’s not “explicit” enough to count.

No such leniency was shown to former AFL star and Triple M Adelaide host Andrew Jarman, who was suspended indefinitely yesterday after a highly crude comment about how to induce women to give birth wasn’t edited out of a pre-recorded segment. — Myriam Robin

Ferguson’s next project nearly ready. The Killing Season, Sarah Ferguson’s three-part documentary series on the Rudd and Gillard years, will begin airing on June 9, the ABC announced this morning. Ferguson promises the “thrill and intrigue of the best political dramas”. “The candour of both Rudd and Gillard is remarkable and sometimes shocking,” she says.

It’s something of a vintage Four Corners reunion — Deb Masters is the series producer, while former Four Corners EP Sue Spencer is the executive producer of the series. — Myriam Robin

Age of precarious TV. The Seven Network is not happy that one of its promising US summer series called Aquarius (think Hair, late 1960s LA, free and easy life and love, crime drama) has turned into a bit of a flop without even airing in the US.  NBC plans to burn all 13 episodes in a binge-viewing event later this month, the day after it starts on free-to-air TV on May 28. Presto (the Foxtel/Seven streaming JV in Australia) must agree with NBC’s assessment because it is doing the same thing the same day, May 29. Another small hole in Seven’s midwinter schedule. Aquarius stars David Duchovny (Californication) — the flop is not a good look for his career, but he has the remake of The X Files with Gillian Anderson on Fox in the US later this year or in early 2016.

The Briefcase  is a new CBS summer series that Nine has optioned for Australia. Its premise, as explained by a TV writer on Yahoo is “two financially challenged families are given a case filled with $101,000 and asked to make a potentially life-changing decision: They can either keep the entire sum, or share some (or all) of it with another family whose life could also be dramatically changed by the cash.” Sounds like Poverty Porn to me, with a bit of greed and envy thrown in. Why $US101,000? Well, the family gets the $US1000 for itself but has to decide what to do with thew $US100,000. In Australia anyone with a heart would give it to needy billionaire Andrew Forrest — he’s down to his last billion and a half!

And US TV will be dominated next week with the final three shows of David Letterman hosting the Tonight Show. According to CBS, on Monday, Tom Hanks will make his 60th appearance on a Letterman-hosted show, and will  be joined by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who will perform, backed by Paul Shaffer. On Tuesday, Letterman’s first Late Night guest Bill Murray will make his 44th appearance on a Letterman-hosted show. We don’t know who the guests are for the final program on Wednesday night (11.35 pm New York time, recorded earlier in the night). CBS though did promise “an hour filled with surprises.” Stephen Colbert starts the Colbert Late Show when the 2015-16 ratings season starts in September. I can remember the final Tonight shows for Johnny Carson. Now there was a giant of TV, anywhere (sound like an old fart, don’t I?). Letterman would agree. He and Carson were very close. — Glenn Dyer

Front page of the day. The Big Issue tackles the asylum seeker debate …

Peter Fray

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