Digital buoys masthead sales: <i>The Aus</i> surges 25%, but Fairfax dominates online readership

Digital newspaper subscriptions grew by 13% during weekdays and 19% on Saturdays to offset print declines and keep masthead sales above 18 million units per week, the latest circulation figures show.

During the October to December 2012 quarter, the combined average daily sales of digital subscriptions to The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age grew by 13.4% across Monday to Friday compared with the previous quarter, while Saturday’s digital editions grew 19.0%, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).

Growth was strongest for The Australian which increased subscriptions to its pay wall by 26.6% Monday to Friday and 26.4% on the weekend, to reach 39,539 and 39,671 digital subscribers respectively.

The Age also grew strongly, up 18.0% on weekdays, to hit 37,162 app subscribers, and 25.4% on Saturdays, to reach 40,011.

The Herald however continues to boast the highest digital subscriber numbers with 58,532 app subscriptions on weekdays, up 3.4% quarter on quarter, and 62,431 on Saturday’s, up 11.3%.

Total masthead sales across these three publications rose slightly in the latest quarter, up by about 1%, pointing to beginnings of an offset to print declines from digital subscribers, according to CEO of The Newspaper Works, Tony Hale.

“There is a clear trend emerging that shows Australians are embracing digital publishing with growing enthusiasm,” Hale says. “Australians continue to buy more than 18 million newspapers every week and although the bulk of these are still print editions, we are now also seeing the strengthening influence of digital purchases on the overall sales figures.

“It is still early days for paid digital sales, and in coming months, we will see the rollout of digital subscriptions across more and more mastheads, supported with enthusiastic marketing by the publishers.”

In terms of total readership of mastheads, paid or not, Roy Morgan’s combined print and online readership figures show the Sydney Morning Herald leading the pack and Fairfax Media’s metropolitan titles with a higher ratio of digital readers than News Limited’s titles.

With larger digital readership bases, Fairfax’s the Herald and The Age were more resilient than News’ Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun to the impact of eroding print audiences on overall readership figures.

The Herald’s overall audience grew 0.4% quarter on quarter in the December period to reach 3.2 million weekly readers and rank as the most highly read masthead. The Herald Sun followed with 2.9 million readers, a drop of 1.8%, and the Telegraph placed third with 2.5 million readers, a drop of 3.0%. The Age place fourth with a gain of 0.8% to reach 2.4 million weekly readers.

For print circulation and readership, the familiar story of significant decline continued, with the vast majority of mastheads experiencing dips in circulation and readership year on year.

Circulation of national newspapers dropped by 8.2% overall year on year. The Australian lost 8.4% to 9.6% across the week and weekend in circulation. In terms of readership, it grew 0.7% on Monday to Fridays, and 2.1% for the weekend edition.

The Australian Financial Review dipped by 3.3% to 7.7% for circulation and 1.3% to 5.2% in readership. Paid subscription figures for the AFR were not made available by Fairfax.

Circulation of metropolitan newspapers dropped by 6.4% to 8.1% year on year across the week.

New South Wales

  • The SMH shed 13.3% to 14.5% across the week in circulation, and lost 10.0% to 14.6% in readership.
  • The Sun-Herald shed 22.9% of circulation and 18.4% of readers. Paid digital editions were sold to 58,014 (up from 56,115 in Jun-Sep) to give the masthead a combined paid circulation of 334,063 units per week.
  • The Daily Telegraph was down by 2.0% to 4.1% in circulation, and fell 8.9% to 13.4% in readership. Sunday’s Telegraph was down by 3.2% in circulation and fell 11.8% in readership. News is yet to put pay walls around its Telegraph site.

Victoria

  • The Age fell 13.4% to 14.5% across the week in circulation, and declined by 10.7% to 12.7% in readership.
  • The Sunday Age dropped 14.0% in circulation and 10.8% in readership, while the digital edition sold 37,144 units (up from 31,941 in Jul-Sep to take total masthead sales to 199,892 per week.
  • The Herald Sun lost 4.7% to 5.4% in circulation across the week, and 6.1% to 11.1% in readership. On Sunday, the Victorian paper dropped 5.7% of its circulation and 11.0% of its readership. A pay wall was erected around premium content in March last year, but News has not made figures available.

Queensland

  • The Courier-Mail experienced greater declines on Saturday (-8.7% circulation) than Monday to Friday (-3.7% circulation), while The Sunday Mail dropped 5.2% in circulation.

South Australia

  • The Advertiser’s circulation was down 5.5% Monday to Friday and between 5.4% and 5.7% for its Saturday and Sunday editions

Western Australia

  • The West Australian was down 4.0% on average across Monday to Saturday, while its Sunday edition, The Sunday Times, dipped 5.4%.

ACT

  • The Canberra Times lost 8.8% on average across Monday to Saturday, while its Sunday edition shed 8.3% of its circulation

Tasmania

  • The Mercury was down 5.1% on average across Monday to Saturday, while its Sunday edition, the Sunday Tasmanian, dropped 7.2% of circulation.

Northern Territory

  • Northern Territory News shed 7.5% in circulation across Monday to Saturday, while its Sunday edition, the Sunday Territorian, lost 4.9%.