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Jan 11, 2017


In the media, measures of attention are big business. They determine what you can charge your advertisers and how seriously people take your outlet. In commercial TV and radio, stars and shows live and die by their figures.

But the figures are often far from perfect. Of the many official ways audiences and reach are measured in the Australian media, a range of methods and biases can throw things out. Some rankings are freely available to anyone who wants to look them up. Others are kept in-house, or sold to subscribers for a fee. Some you can take at face value, and others, well, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of their flaws. Here are the most common measures of audience used by media companies, and what you should make of them.

The small screen

The TV figures are some of the most important of all, partly because of how often they come out and how (relatively) robust they are. On the small screen, how many people are watching is measured minute by minute. TV execs can pore over the previous day’s ratings from early the next morning. Things that don’t rate well don’t tend to last.

The company that wields so much power over the small screen is OzTAM (short for Australian Television Audience Measurement), which is owned by the Seven, Nine and Ten networks. It installs measuring hardware on the televisions of several thousand homes (5250 are participating in the free-to-air measurement system in 2017) and simply measures what that sample are watching, night by night, minute by minute, demographic by demographic. You can get access to them by subscribing (a small number of industry players pay millions a year to do so), but they’re not hard for media reporters to get their hands on for free, which is why you see them reported on in so many places (including Crikey).

If the sample is representative (OzTAM weights the survey so it is representative of the broader population), then the measures are statistically robust, if not perfect — it is, after all, an extrapolation on a smallish sample. But television is being disrupted, and that’s starting to show. Many young people no longer own televisions. Australians of all ages watch things online rather than turning on the TV set. Streaming figures exist, but not in a centralised place you can check the next day. Many are tracked internally by the various broadcasters, and not publicly released.

[Playing in traffic: the dirty tricks publishers use to boost online views]

Another problem with streaming is that people stream TV when it suits them, not the moment it’s available. The overnight TV ratings are easy to understand and report on, but for many types of shows, they do not capture total viewing. For dramas in particular, the TV ratings are less than robust. Last year, Crikey pointed out that the ABC’s Cleverman, a new indigenous sci-fi drama, got killer reviews, but poor ratings. But our analysis didn’t include iView views. We did ask about them, but the ABC doesn’t routinely release such figures, and it didn’t release them to us.

Multi-channelling has also complicated things — some networks run shows on more than one channel at the same time, which can provide an audience boost. Still, for all their faults, the OzTAM figures are timely, detailed and relatively transparent.

Don’t touch that dial

The radio ratings are just as closely watched as those in television. But unlike their cousins in television, radio execs have to wait.

A few times a year, thousands of people across Australia are given diaries and told to fill them out over a given week. Every radio ratings survey averages out responses over a few weeks, and GfK, which since 2013 has complied the ratings for industry body Commercial Radio Australia, carefully controls the age and geographical distribution of those selected.


Minimum sample sizes for each city, from GfK’s explanation of how it does the radio ratings.

Four in five of those who participate in the survey are given paper diaries and told to fill them out every day with their listening habits. The final 20% are given digital ones. At the end of every survey period, the figures for each city are collated and averaged out over a few weeks, to give an average listenership number for each station by time block.

Of course, as with any survey-based system, listeners are likely to remember the most popular stations and time-slots when they fill out their diaries. Because of this, some have argued the diary system helps preserve the radio status quo.

Inky fingers …

For newspapers, print circulation relies on average daily sales records as provided by participating newspapers. These are released four times a year by the Audited Media Association of Australia, and list paid distribution. That also includes discounted copies to airports, schools and hotels, which are broken out separately. For a while, there was a push to count digital subscriptions in with the daily papers, to more accurately reflect a paper’s total subscriptions base. But this never got much traction. Only a handful of papers revealed their digital subscriber numbers, and at its annual results this year, Fairfax said it would no longer provide its digital subscription numbers for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

It had never given digital subscription figures for the Financial Review. Likewise News Corp has very selectively provided digital subscription figures to Nielsen — and recently, News Corp executive Damian Eales joined Fairfax’s Greg Hywood in saying the figures weren’t really what advertisers were after. “The reality is that media buyers and advertisers aren’t interested in circulation. They plan media based on the audience that reads a paper, not the number of papers printed,” he told the Oz.

Just before Christmas, the nation’s three major magazine publishers pulled their titles out of the Audit Bureau, arguing total audiences, including digital, were a far more important metric to advertisers. That will mean fewer bad news stories for the magazine industry — for a time at least.

… But isn’t print dead?

That’s an argument newspapers make as well, though, so far, none have entirely pulled their print editions out of the circulation audit. But they have emphasised a new, preferred metric. Total print reach is combined with digital reach in a newish monthly measure called EMMA, owned by industry body NewsMediaWorks (formerly Newspaper Works — it changed its name to better reflect the times last year). In EMMA’s favour, the figures are released monthly and are publicly available on its website.

The EMMA survey relies on after-the-fact surveys of around 50,000 people who participate in a panel, asking them what they’ve read for more than two minutes over the past month. The sample is massaged to be broadly representative, in much the same way political polling is. Like radio ratings and other “survey” measures of readership, there’s a potential bias in this methodology — people remember the more popular brands more easily than smaller ones.

[‘Magical’ newspapers take a hammering in circulation figures]

EMMA controversially assumes every print title is read multiple times, even if it is only purchased once. According to the EMMA survey, nearly 1 million people (942,000) read the Australian Financial Review in print in October 2016. This for a paper that sells less than 50,000 copies a day, according to its circulation figures. In magazines, Woman’s Day had a print audience of 2.8 million in the same month — even though, according to the September quarter circulation figures, it sold less than 250,000 copies a month (every copy would have to be passed around more than 10 times to get the print readership figure EMMA’s surveys find).

But print is only one part of the EMMA survey: to arrive at a total masthead readership figure, it combines the print with the Nielsen/IAB audience digital estimates.

That brings us to the final measure of audience, which is digital reach. The gold standard for news outlet reach in Australia are the monthly Nielsen digital news figures, which are just one category of several types of websites measured by Nielsen.

The system is somewhat complex and was refined last year to gather more data from mobile and tablet users. Data is collected first through the publishers themselves, which allow Nielsen to implant traffic-measuring add-ons to their websites. More data is collected from panels of smartphone and tablets users, who might browse websites only through dedicated apps from publishers, as well as PC users, which are fused together and then “calibrated” from figures obtained from the tagged websites.

Of course, all digital traffic systems are vulnerable to manipulation. Popups, auto-play videos and even traffic bought through bots can all help keep the page-views up if they ever dip. Though reputable publishers wouldn’t want to rely on such tactics too much — advertisers see through them eventually.

Media briefs

Nov 11, 2016


Most of Australia’s leading print newspapers suffered hefty year-on-year circulation falls in the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures.

In metropolitan weekday papers, the NT News and Canberra Times both posted double-digit print circulation falls (10.50% and 12.70% respectively), while The West Australian declined 8.3% year-on-year, The Daily Telegraph 7.10%, the SMH 8.70%, The Courier-Mail 7.0% and The Age 9.3%.

Australia’s best-selling weekday paper, the Herald Sun, posted a relatively small 5.3% decline. The Adelaide Advertiser and Mercury both declined only 4.8% year-on-year.

The actual audit figures show Fairfax’s SMH and Age declining by 60.9% and 49.9% year-on-year, but this is a definitional error. The Audit Bureau has begun to count digital and print subscriptions together to give a total sales figure, but Fairfax a few weeks ago stopped reporting the digital sales figures of its two biggest papers.

In national papers, The Australian posted a 3.6% print decline (but a total sales boost due to rising digital subscriptions), while the Australian Financial Review recorded a 9.8% weekday print decline. — Myriam Robin

Media briefs

Nov 1, 2016


So much for transparency.

Earlier this year, NewsMediaWorks, the Australian print media’s industry group revealed a new metric for the embattled industry and took a big step forward so far as transparency is concerned by revealing quarterly revenue data, broken down into figures for print, digital and newspaper-inserted magazines for 2015, the first quarter with comparatives to allow readers to assess the performance of each group. The release included a helpful table chock full of data. Naturally, the prognosis for news was not all that hot — but the print industry sill took around $2.5 billion in revenues from all sources in 2015. And the move was still brave.

The UK print sector releases independently audited monthly circulation figures (Australia’s figures are quarterly), while the American industry has run away from disclosure. The Newspaper Association of America abandoned posting quarterly revenue figures in 2014 after more than 40 years of doing so and, at the same time, the half-year circulation data for America’s 50 biggest newspapers vanished into the ether, never to appear again. It was an act of cowardice that the US industry refuses to talk about, and to further distance itself from, print. The association changed its name in early September to the News Media Alliance (dropping any reference to “paper”).

In Australia, NewsMediaWorks released the June quarter and 2015-16 financial year data on July 29, which again included a helpful table.

But yesterday there was a significant change in the September quarter release. It consisted of just a bald statement, with one figure of note ($2.3 billion) for the year to the end of September, no quarterly data and no breakdown into print, digital and inserted magazines, nor was there the handy table tabulating all the figures. And that $2.3 billion was little different to the $2.34 billion figure given in the July release.

“Australia’s news media sector has reported an annualised $2.3 billion in advertising revenue for the last four quarters, according to the latest News Media Index with data collated by SMI,” the October 31 released started.

“The News Media Index was announced in May this year and is a world-first partnership between Australia’s four largest news media publishers and Standard Media Index (SMI) to enhance commercial transparency for advertisers and investors.

“The index records all publisher print and digital revenue, as well as whole-of-industry revenue, and is independently verified by SMI.

“Print continues to dominate the sector accounting for 80 per cent of total ad revenue, with digital ad spend at 20 per cent, buoyed by a 34 per cent increase in programmatic bookings.

“In addition, premium news media websites are growing at nine times the industry average for content sites (excluding programmatic), increasing revenue by 10.8 per cent in the calendar year to date.”

Compared with the details released in May and July, this release is useless and nothing but a weak PR screed. Note the irony in the second paragraph of the release “to enhance commercial transparency for advertisers and investors.” Far from it. — Glenn Dyer


Aug 18, 2016


Press gallery seats given away. Only 25 members of the parliamentary press gallery will be able to view the Governor-General’s address to open the new Parliament on August 30, as the 50 best seats in the Senate gallery (where the address occurs) have been offered to what press gallery president Andrew Meares describes as “guests”.

The address is one of the few times a seat in the Senate gallery is highly sought after — the seats are usually empty.

In an email to members this afternoon, Meares wrote that the Usher of the Black Rod had told him of the restricted attendance requirements today. The press gallery committee, he wrote in an email to the body’s members, believed the restrictions “unprecedented, unacceptable and unworkable”.

Meares said that he’d written to Senate President Stephen Parry to ask who decided this would happen and who would be occupying the 50 seats. He asked whether the seats had been “sold or offered to party donors or supporters”, and whether the opposition or minor parties have been consulted.

The gallery is not co-operating with the request to supply the names of the 25 journalists who will be attending. “The assigning of journalists to cover proceedings is determined by media organisations not the Press Gallery committee.”

While the restriction on attendance may be “unprecedented”, tussles between the press gallery and the Parliament are not. Heightened security measures in the last Parliament brought new restrictions for journalists, especially visiting ones from outside the gallery, who were not allowed to wonder the gallery unescorted. The increased use of bollards to separate journalists from politicians was another gripe. — Myriam Robin

Drag queen takes on Foxtel. If Game of Thrones fans thought they were getting a raw deal with Foxtel, spare a thought for fans of reality competition hit RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The show is credited with bringing underground drag culture to the masses and creating an international community of queer misfits devoted to the art of drag. It was last month nominated for its first Emmy Award.

But for Australian fans, getting in on the celebration isn’t easy. Foxtel has the exclusive screening rights for the program in Australia, which it airs a month after episodes premiere in the US …

Earlier this year, Foxtel’s legal team sent Melbourne drag queen Karen From Finance an email demanding she shut down her viewing parties of the eighth season of the show. — Read Ben Neutze’s full piece at Daily Review

TV Ratings. Olympics fatigue emerged last night, with viewer numbers falling to their lowest since the game started. But that was OK for Seven because the other networks had nothing to match the still high average audiences for the coverage. After cruising in second for most of the games, the key In Rio Today segment of the coverage, starting at 7pm and running to 10pm dipped to fourth nationally with 1.277 million viewers (down around 300,000) and in the metros, fell under a million viewers for the first time since the games started and managed 845,000 viewers. The evening segment averaged 1.085 million nationally and 777,000 in the metros.

Seven won the metros and the regions – the overall share remained above 30% at 33.1%, but the main channel share in the metros fell to 23.9%, the lowest since the games started.

The Bachelor managed 1.101 million national viewers for Ten — mostly Rio bored young female viewers who dominated some demos. It was not a great episode with a walk-out. We need some cross training: some gymnastics, boxing judges or synchronised judges to sit on a panel on the program and do the scoring. The Bach is heading for bloodsport anyway. Gruen was OK again and managed a solid 1.137 million national viewers for the ABC.

 In the regions, Seven News was again on top with 600,000 viewers, followed by The Chase Australia 5.30pm with 499,000, In Rio Today was third with 431,000, RBT on Nine was fourth with 416,000 and ACA was fifth with 398,000.

A big commendation for the 7.30 report last night on the inquest into the Lindt Cafe siege and police actions. The Sean Rubensztein Dunlop report was hard-edged, concise and right on the mark. It had good talent and left viewers with the strong impression of a lack of police competence. Quotes from two international experts who appeared at the inquest also added a lot to the report. It was another example of how far the ABC is in front of Seven, Nine and Ten in explaining the big and small news stories (and breaking news). Interesting that Monis’ name wasn’t mentioned once in the report. — Read Glenn Dyer’s full TV Ratings

Manning writes a book on the Greens. Former Crikey business editor Paddy Manning’s next big thing is a book on the Greens.

It will be published by Black Inc and due out next year. Manning told Crikey it was part history, part biography, part asking the question: is there room in Australia to sustain a third party in the long term?

“It’s a real inflection point for the Greens at the moment — are they a party of protest or a party of government?” he said. It’s an interesting period for the Greens, who weren’t really able to capitalise on the massive backlash against the major parties in the last election.

Manning wrote the cover story in the current issue of The Monthly on the topic — but he reckons there’s plenty more to say. The Greens have a reputation for being less transparent with media than the major parties, so does Manning fear he won’t get the access he needs? “I think they’re used to being ignored — they don’t know how to handle media interest in their own internal politics,” he mused when we asked him about it.

So far though, Manning says he’s getting good access. That will make a change from his last book — his recent biography on Malcolm Turnbull was completed without a great deal of cooperation from its star. Fingers crossed it’s less legally contentious too — as Crikey wrote last Friday, Liberal donor and businessman John O’Sullivan is suing Manning over three paragraphs in Born to Rule. — Myriam Robin

The Tele‘s page 3 (and 7) girls. Earlier this week, the Tele’s sports pages featured a collage of “hot” female Olympians from across the world. Today’s edition continues on the theme, though more prominently — the athletes in bikinis are all over the news pages …


There’s also a full page of beach volleyball live action shots on page 52. Which seems a lot of attention to focus on the one sport …

The delicate balance of indy publishing. Journalist Max Chalmers’ last day at New Matilda was yesterday. His no-holds-barred reflection on the website’s purpose is worth a read:

“There are plenty of criticisms I have of the publication. Its gender balance, for instance, is terrible, something that has clearly had an impact on editorial decisions. There were days when we went too far.

“Being an aggressive, confident, and genuinely independent outlet can be a two-edged sword that way. On one hand, it means you might be the only ones to say, stuff it, let’s publish the Barry Spurr emails. It means that you push where others won’t, or can’t. It means you know you are going to get sued but publish anyway.

“On the other hand, it also means that on the day you get it wrong your mistake is likely to be compounded. The independent mentality suddenly plays against you.

“What I’ve realised is that the successes and excesses of outlets like New Matilda can’t be separated; they’re expressions of the same core instincts. When it works, there is a delicate balance; the sober analysis of Ben Eltham and the biting commentary of Chris Graham; the clickable far-right outrage bitsand drier reports that contradict their assertions; the stuff that other outlets run and the stuff they won’t touch.

“This is a balance that can be easily tipped. Too far one way and you lose your reach and distinctive purpose. Too far the other, you hurt your own credibility and inspire masses of criticism.”

Australians ditch papers. The New York Times has a piece on where the end of Fairfax’s daily printed editions will leave Australian democracy. It includes these eye-opening graphs …


Media briefs

Jun 17, 2016


According to America’s Pew Institute, 2015 brought pressures on the US newspaper industry not seen since the recession. And judging by reports from other countries, this was also a shared experience by newspapers in the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But America has the biggest newspaper industry in the world, and Pew said in its annual State of the News Media report that average weekday newspaper circulation — print and digital combined — fell 7%, the biggest yearly fall since 2010, as the economy rebounded from the GFC. US newspaper Sunday circulation fell 4% last year.

Pew pointed out that the 7% drop in weekday circulations:

“… was due entirely to print circulation, which declined by 9%, while digital circulation increased by 2%. Sunday circulation, meanwhile, fell 4%, following a 3% drop in 2014. As with weekday circulation, the fall in Sunday circulation was due to a decline in print circulation, which fell 5% while digital rose 4%.”

Pew pointed out that 2015’s fall of 7% was more than double the 3% dip in 2015. “In 2015, print circulation makes up 78% of weekday circulation and 86% of all Sunday circulation. Only three newspapers had more average weekday digital circulation than average weekday print circulation in the same period.” The New York Times, Monday to Saturday, was one of those three.


Nov 13, 2015


“There’s something magical about printed papers,” News Corp Australia executive Campbell Reid said as he sat on a panel on media innovation in Sydney yesterday.

“We panic about the future of newspapers. But between Fairfax and News, we reach pretty much 100% of Australians between our printed papers,” said Reid, until recently editorial director but since moved sideways to corporate affairs.

But newspaper circulation figures released today make it hard to square Reid’s confidence in the medium. While the audit is “better” for everyone than it has been in the past — media analyst Steve Allen described it as a “moderately positive audit, certainly the best in a few years” — the declines continue.

In Melbourne, an important milestone has been reached. For the first time, the average print circulation of The Age’s Monday-to-Friday editions has dipped below 100,000 papers, with an average 97,014 editions circulated between July and September this year (a fall of 9.9% year-on-year). The Sydney Morning Herald is bravely hovering above the line with a circulation of 104,833 (a fall of 10.3%), though on its current trajectory it will probably fall below 100,000  in the next audit. Both cities have populations of nearly 5 million, which suggests there’s around one paper per 50 people in circulation. Five years ago, both papers had at least double that circulation, in cities with fewer residents than they have today.

For a while now it has been fashionable to muse on when Fairfax would cease to print metropolitan newspapers and focus its efforts entirely online. The answer given by Fairfax was that it would continue to print papers for as long as there was money to be made off them, and it’s hard to quibble with that logic. But with print circulation figures like these, that day might not be far off.

Alarmingly for Fairfax, it has also suffered small drops in the number of digital subscribers to the two papers. As Mumbrella has noted, The Age had 489 fewer subscribers than the previous quarter, while the SMH lost 236 subscribers (the figures released show year-on-year comparisons, however, so both papers still record an increase compared with June-September 2014 in this morning’s audit).

Fairfax charged into digital subscriptions in 2013 and initially experienced rapid growth, despite having come to the field after News Corp. But the small drop suggests its figures have plateaued. It also squares with comments made publicly by Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden last month: he declared digital subscriptions were “not the silver bullet” for Fairfax.

Fairfax nonetheless has the highest numbers of paying digital-only subscribers in the country — the SMH weekday edition has 105,732 of them, more than it has in print, while The Age has 98,756.

The exception to the general circulations falls at Fairfax is The Weekend Australian Financial Review, which, as Crikey noted, was last audit the only newspaper last audit to stay in the black. It grew its circulations by 1% year-on-year last quarter, and it is only 0.1% in the red this quarter. The weekday Australian Financial Review lost 8.7% of circulations year-on-year — for an average circulation of 52,892. This opens up the gap between the two editions even further — the weekend edition sells 55,314. Who knew business news could be popular on weekends?

For News Corp, the fall has been held at bay, but all titles experienced circulation declines. The Australian, while not a city paper and so not quite equivalent to the SMH or The Age, is also likely to slip below six figures in its weekday circulations. It lost 4.7% of its circulations and now sits at 101,040 average copies distributed.

The country’s most-read daily newspaper, the Herald Sun, had quite a large drop (8.2%) to take its average weekday circulation to 335,235. The Daily Telegraph‘s weekday edition dropped 7.2% to 251,710. The best-performing News Corp tabloid was the NT News — it declined just 3.5% to sell 14,210 issues. The weekday Courier-Mail didn’t do badly either — declining just 4.7% to 155,676 issues circulated on average.

In Perth, The West Australian (published by Seven West Media) had quite a good result. It declined only 5.1% to 149,168  issues on weekdays.

Aggregate figures compiled by Steve Allen’s Fusion Strategy show the total year-on-year print circulation fall across News Corp, Fairfax and The West Australian was 7.17%. That is the lowest aggregate fall in some years. The total declines have been reducing every quarter since September 2013.

Total digital circulations continue to grow, up 9.36%, but that doesn’t make up for the falls in print circulations.


Aug 25, 2015


Literary cliches. Additions suggested by readers to David Salter’s greatest literary thefts by journalists list:

  • “A [x] for all seasons.”
  • “Happy [families|political parties|x] are all alike; every unhappy [x] is unhappy in its own way.”
  • “Rumours of [x] have been greatly exaggerated.”
  • “The unbearable [x]ness of y.”

Columnists, consider yourself warned.

No boom for print. UK analysts Ovum have produced possibly the gloomiest outlook for print and digital media. On the face of it, the central forecast sounds positive — that global revenues generated by digital consumer publishing (books, magazines and newspapers) will surge to US$74 billion in 2019, from US$412 billion this year. That’s a compound annual growth rate of an impressive 13%. But Ovum pointed out that as magnificent as that sounds, it will not push digital revenues past the total for old-style analog revenues:

“Print revenues will remain the bulk of the consumer publishing industry over the next five years, with almost 75% of revenues coming from print in 2020, down from 86% in 2015. Print revenues are falling so opportunities for growth in this sector are low but competition in the digital landscape is fierce and previously tested business models don’t always work. Meanwhile, the barriers to entry are high for print publishing despite there being millions of consumers who are willing to pay for it. This is causing a dilemma for publishers who need to grow digital revenues but cannot afford to weaken their print products.”

In other words, established publishers have years more pain, for no gain, ahead. You only have to look at the results from News Corp, Fairfax Media, New York Times Co, the Daily Mail and General Trust, and Trinity Mirror to see that no matter how hard they push digital strategies (especially paywalls), revenue growth from this area is failing to cover the continuing loss of revenue (and profits) from print ad sales and the sale of print versions of newspapers. — Glenn Dyer

Netflix’s new deal. Netflix has tied up a deal with Japan’s SoftBank Group for the Japan launch of its video-streaming service next Wednesday, September 2. Under the agreement announced Monday, SoftBank customers will be able to sign up for Netflix at SoftBank’s retail shops, major electronics retailers and through SoftBank’s website and call centres. SoftBank operates one of Japan’s largest mobile phone companies and says users of its mobile or broadband services to pay Netflix subscription fees through SoftBank’s payment system without the need to fill out additional payment information. Starting a week tomorrow internet-connected users in Japan will be able to subscribe to Netflix and watch selections of popular movies and TV shows in high-definition. — Glenn Dyer

Murdochs lose out. So will the Murdoch gang also turn on Cricket Australia, which will join the National Rugby League in the clan’s pantheon of great Satans? The family’s UK satellite TV group, Sky, has lost the broadcast rights for the next Ashes series. BT will pay around 80 million pounds (or more than A$170 million for a five-year deal with Cricket Australia, covering the rights to 2017-18 Ashes series in Australia, the women’s Ashes, other Australian internationals, and the Twenty20 competition Big Bash League (on the family’s Ten TV Network). Sky had paid around 50 million pounds in a four-year deal. Sky still has the UK broadcast rights for England’s Tests, one-dayers and T20 games until 2019. — Glenn Dyer

 Video of the day. Latham’s publisher Louise Adler on his “very distressing” outburst.


Aug 14, 2015


The quarterly Audit Bureau newspaper circulation figures have been a uniform sea of red for several years now. But this time, there’s something surprising. The Australian Financial Review Weekend  appears to have defied expectations of its demise, posting a 1% year-on-year increase in circulation in an era where the best performers have experienced small declines.

The conventional wisdom is that given the AFR owes much of its circulation to businesses looking to impress their clients and secure a tax write-off, there’s little need for a weekend edition when people are relaxing at home. But the AFR Weekend now sells nearly 5000 more copies than its weekday edition (circulation 57,243, down 6.5%), with a circulation of 62,643 — which is 600 more copies than it was a year ago.

Under youngish editor Matthew Drummond, the paper has prioritised quirky colour stories and features to try to differentiate itself from its more straight-laced Monday-to-Friday edition.

The slight boost in circulation was helped along by the Weekend AFR increasing the number of discounted copies it gives airlines. Without the average 1139 extra daily copies given to airlines in the past financial year, circulation would have declined 0.9%. The paper gave hotels 164 fewer copies each day, but this was eclipsed by the rise in airline copies. Still, a 0.9% circulation fall is an impressive result in this media climate.

The Weekend Australian posted a 3% decline in circulation — the good performances of both papers suggests there may still be an appetite for high-brow national weekend papers.

The national papers

City papers have fared far worse on the weekends, with Fairfax and News’ daily tabloids faring badly.

The Sunday Telegraph circulation dropped 9.9%, or 50,000 copies, year-on-year — though it still has the highest daily circulation of any newspaper in the country. Fairfax cross-town rival the Sun-Herald lost 13.9% of its circulation. In Melbourne, the Sunday Age went down  8.8% — the Sunday Herald Sun lost 8.6%.

Saturday papers fared about the same as the Sunday ones. Sydney’s Saturday Daily Telegraph has less than half the circulation of its Sunday edition, but it managed to hold on a bit better — it lost 7.9% if its circulations, as compared to the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald‘s 9.4%. In Melbourne, The Saturday Age was down 7.3% — less than the Saturday Herald Sun’s 7.8% decline. Perhaps the only significant aberration from this trend was the Saturday West Australian — down just 2%.

The Monday-to-Friday circulations of the major metropolitan papers

Overall, circulations declines have eased across the board since the June 2013 catastrophe audit, when total circulations fell 11.02%. We’re now seeing slightly smaller falls of about 8.5% a year, with metropolitan papers continuing to suffer more than their national cousins, and Fairfax’s papers suffering the worst of all. Of course, papers can point to digital subscriptions as the future of revenue streams, and for the small number of papers that do disclose digital subscribers to the audit bureau, these are still growing. The Herald Sun had the best result this audit — growing digital subscribers by 18.5% — though it (and all of News Corp’s papers) remain a long way digitally behind Fairfax’s metros, the SMH and The Age.

But with only a handful of major papers disclosing digital subscribers, and with it being unclear how many people are on introductory rather than full-paying digital offers, the figures are far sketchier. It’s worth noting that while Fairfax dominates digital subscriptions the way News Corp dominates print, yesterday’s full-year results showed Fairfax made only $32.7 million from digital subscriptions (up 36.2%), while Fairfax’s print circulation revenues across its metro division are $197.5 million. The best way one can describe digital subscriptions is as a work in progress.


May 18, 2015


The weekday editions of The Daily Telegraph, The Courier-Mail and The West Australian have increased the number of discounted copies they give to hotels, airlines and schools in the year to March 2015, which has helped to limit their circulation declines, a Crikey analysis of the March quarter circulation data released last Friday shows.

For several years, the audit bureau has required mastheads to disclose how much of their circulation went cheap or free to airlines, hotels or schools. Most major titles use bulk sales to hotels and other accommodation businesses, airlines, education and “bundled” sales to bolster their sales each day and week. These “sales”, especially those at hotels and airlines, are typically given free to consumers, though the institutions providing them do pay a fee, usually heavily discounted.

Most Australian mastheads have, over the past year, decreased their reliance on these cheap sales to boost circulations, with a few notable exceptions. But even though some News Corp mastheads, such as The Australian, have decreased their cheap copies for circulation (in the Monday-to-Friday Oz’s case, from 20,831 to 18,710, including bundled digital/print sales), the company’s titles remain some of the most reliant on these giveaways and cheap sales for reach.

A staggering one in five copies of the Monday-to-Friday edition of the Oz were still circulated through non-standard sales arrangements, according to this quarter’s figures. As a proportion of total sales, this is almost steady on last year — the Monday-to-Friday edition went from having 20,831 non-standard sales (including 1688 bundled digital/print editions) to 18,710 such sales this year. This took the Oz’s reliance on cheap sales from 18.69% to 17.96% total circulation — which, despite the decrease, leaves it the most reliant masthead on such sales nationally.

But the Monday-to-Friday edition of the The Australian Financial Review almost matches The Australian in the share of these non-newsstand, non-subscription sales. The masthead sold cheaply or gave away, on average, 9045 such daily copies in the first quarter of 2015 — which is 16.11% of its total circulation. That’s a figure above last year’s, when just 15.39% of its circulation came in this manner — the AFR’s non-standard sales declined at a slower rate than its circulations did over the year. This is in contrast to Fairfax’s other major papers, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

The SMH had just 5352 non-standard daily sales over the first quarter of 2015, with most of these going to hotels and airlines. That’s 4.77% of total circulation — down from 5.48% last year. Meanwhile, The Age‘s discounted copies comprised just 2.83% of total circulation, down from 3.03% last year. Both papers have suffered sharp circulation declines over the year, but the number of discounted copies they gave away has fallen even faster. Fairfax Media has been eliminating these non-standard sales over the last three years to produce what it says are “clean” circulation figures.

Only a handful of mastheads actually sold more discounted copies in the March 2015 quarter than the same one last year, though some mastheads kept such sales steady while standard circulation declined, increasing their reliance on cheap sales to hold circulations up. Titles to actually increase non-standard circulation over the period were:

  • The Australian Financial Review Weekend (from 5568 to 5912 non-standard sales);
  • The weekday edition of The Daily Telegraph (16,786 to 21,321, with major growth arising from sales to schools and universities);
  • The weekday edition of the NT News (1370 to 1902, due to increased school sales), The Courier-Mail (which almost doubled its non-standard circulation from 6802 to 11,564, due to nearly 6000 more sales in schools);
  • The weekday editions of The West Australian (from 12,304 non-standard sales to 18,354);
  • The Saturday Daily Telegraph (from 19,129 to 22,642), the Saturday NT News (from 1003 to 1495);
  • The Saturday Courier-Mail (another near-doubling in non-standard circulation, from 4658 to 9163);
  • The Sunday Telegraph (22,264 to 25,402),
  • the Sunday Territorian (885 to 1388); and
  • Queensland’s Sunday Mail (6507 to 10,515).

With the exception of the AFR Weekend and The West Australian, all the titles above are News Corp tabloids. Because all papers are suffering from falling total circulations, these increases have left these titles more reliant on non-standard sales for subscriptions.

The top 10 newspapers by share of total print sales to airlines, hotels, schools, bundled events etc (excluding digital only subscriptions) were:

  1. The Australian, Monday to Friday: 104,165 copies sold a day in the March quarter, including 18,710 sales to airlines, hotels, etc — 17.96% share of the total print sales;
  2. The Australian Financial Review, Monday to Friday: 56,160 copies sold, including 9045 sales to airlines, hotels etc — 16.1% of total print sales;
  3. NT News, Monday to Friday: 13,548 copies sold, including 1902 to airlines, hotels etc — 14.04% of total print sales;
  4. The West Australian, Monday to Friday: 153,763 copies sold, 18,354 to airlines, hotels etc — 11.94% of total print sales;
  5. The Australian Financial Review Weekend: 61,911 copies sold, 5912 sales to airlines hotels etc — 9.55% of total print sales;
  6. The Weekend Australian: 230,182 copies sold, 19,688 to airlines, hotels etc — 8.55% share;
  7. The Daily Telegraph Saturday: 265,111 copies sold, 22,642 sales to airlines, hotels etc — 8.54% share of total print sales;
  8. The Daily Telegraph, Monday to Friday: 254,895 copies sold, 21,321 sales to airlines, hotels etc — or 8.34% share of total print sales;
  9. NT News Saturday: 18,999 copies sold, including 1495 sales to hotels, airlines etc — or 7.87% of total print sales; and
  10. The Courier-Mail, Monday to Friday: 153,763 copies sold, 11,564 to airlines hotels schools etc — 7.52% of total print sales.

Among the many magazines, two stood out (both published by News): Vogue Australia (14,167 copies to hotels, etc, or 27.7% of total print sales in the March quarter of 51,019) and Vogue Living (8386 copies to hotels, airlines, etc, or 20.2% of total print sales of 41,480 in the quarter).

Bauer Media’s high-end women’s fashion mag, Harper’s Bazaar, had sales of 52,910 print copies in the quarter, with 11,670, or 18.9% of total sales going to airlines, hotels, etc. And Pacific Magazines’ Marie Claire had sales of 80,618 copies, with, 600 going to hotels, airlines, etc, or 11.9% of total print sales.


May 15, 2015


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 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 …