Figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) show sales of Monday to Sunday metropolitan daily newspapers were down by 1.6% in the three months ending December 2009.

Victorian weekend papers have gained some ground, with The Herald Sun Saturday edition and the Sunday Age recording modest growth.

However, national newspapers took some of the biggest hits, with the Australian Financial Review recording a 10% loss on both its weekly and Saturday offerings.

Of all Australia’s regional newspapers audited, only eight were able to announce growth figures.

Despite the figures, The Newspaper Works CEO Tony Hale, assured the media that the industry is showing signs of improved numbers.

“In the past decade, broadsheet publishers have continued to invest in production facilities, quality journalism, newspaper inserted magazines, new sections and a raft of other initiatives in order to stay relevant to readers and give them what they want. As a result, Australians are still buying printed broadsheets in virtually the same numbers as 10 years ago, which is remarkable in light of the changing media landscape and at a time when the doomsayers have been predicting the demise of newspapers thanks to the rise of the internet,” said Hale.

Hale pointed to sales trends in overseas markets as examples of how well the Australian market is doing in comparison, with weekday US newspaper sales dropping 10.6% and UK national daily newspaper sales falling by 3.1%.

In contrast, Australian sales of Monday to Saturday national, metropolitan and regional newspapers fell by 1.8%.

“Every week, Australians are still buying 15.2 million metropolitan newspapers – this is a phenomenal number in a country with a population as relatively small as ours,” explained Hale.