While print audiences for Australia's newspaper mastheads may have declined, combined Roy Morgan Readership figures have shown overall audience numbers are actually higher than 10 years ago.
Roy Morgan Single Source data for the 12 months to June compared with the same period in 2002 – when online numbers were not accounted for – showed all the major mastheads now attracting large interstate audiences.
In an average seven days, Fairfax's The Sydney Morning Herald increased its reach by 993,000 people (774,000 from outside NSW) to 3.31 million, while News Limited's Herald Sun increased its reach by 590,000 (549,000 from outside Victoria) to 3.06 million.
For national titles, net readership for News Limited's The Australian increased by 544,000 to 1.8 million over the 10-year period, while Fairfax's The Australian Financial Review went up by 69,000 to 608,000.
Roy Morgan Research general manager media and communications George Pesutto said: "This data demonstrates that all major metropolitan dailies and national newspapers are in great shape if the measure is the number of people each publisher engages with.
"Clearly there is more loyalty for the brand than perhaps many have given credit for. More importantly, these publications are attracting more people than 10 years ago. All that is needed now is a model to generate revenue from that strength. For some mastheads, this will be their highest readership ever recorded."
Fairfax Metro Media commercial director Ed Harrison said: "We welcome this development as it is aligned with our approach. The primary measure of masthead audience has to be across our platforms. We've known for some time that our audiences are bigger than they’ve ever been, so it’s great to see data that supports this.
"As audiences migrate we can see that our investment in digital is paying off. Our biggest challenge remains the legacy planning and buying process that often prevent advertisers from making the most of these developments. The obvious gap is the lack of smartphone and tablet numbers. Our mastheads deliver large audiences here too, so a complete view of brand strength requires this data."
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