Newspaper circulations declined for the sixth straight year in 2012, but worryingly for publishers at the fastest rate yet.
According to Fusion Strategy figures 2012 saw 5.3% cut off the number of printed papers, compared to 3.84% in 2011, 2.82% in 2010 and just over 1% the preceding three years.
In the October to December quarter Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures released this morning only one paper managed to increase its circulation.
In the metropolitan market the story continues to be the same, with Fairfax’s major titles The Sydney Morning Herald (-14.5% M-F) and The Age (-14.9% M-F) posting heavy declines with News Limited’s The Daily Telegraph (-4.1%) and Herald Sun (-4.7%) holding steadier.
However, Fairfax is continuing to clean out its unprofitable circulations.
But, in the battle of the nationals it was News Limited which fared worst, with The Australian’s Monday to Friday editions (-8.4%) and Weekend (-9.6%) falling further Fairfax’s Australian Financial Review (-7.7% M-F and -3.3% Sat).
However, total masthead figures which were not available this time last year, and include people who pay for paywall access in the case of The Australian, and digital versions in the case of The SMH and Age, make for interesting reading.
For The Australian they show 158,325 total subscribers, compared to the print-only figures of 133,701 for Monday to Friday, and 296,434 on Saturday, up from 295,066 print only the year before.
This includes 35,897 digital only sales for weekdays, up from 31,241 in the last quarter, the first in which they were reported and 29,738 for the Weekend edition, with The Australian Financial Review yet to reveal its paywall subscriber numbers to the ABC.
Similarly the SMH has 186,000 compared to 184,613 (+0.8%) weekdays although the Saturday edition is still 6.9% down on last year’s print with 292,989 subscribers, with The Age down significantly at 174,079 to 184,156 (-5.5%) weekdays and 237,450 to 263,047 (-9.7%) Saturday.
For both publishers though digital and bundled print and digital subscriptions are making up an increasingly large proportion of the circulation.
Once again The West Australian was the only major paper to post a positive circulation, gaining 1.3% on its Saturday edition with 306,479 copies sold compared to 302,412 this time last year, although Monday to Friday was down 5.1%.
Largely Sunday papers proved more resilient to their sister paper declines, with the notable exception of Fairfax’s The Sun-Herald which dropped 22.9%, to 313,477 compared to 406,470 this time last year, although total masthead numbers were 334,063.