Fairfax circ decline continues to outpace News Ltd

By By David Blight | 9 November 2012

News Limited's total print circulation for metro newspapers dropped considerably less than Fairfax's in the September quarter, as the two companies continued to adopt different circulation strategies.

In the three months to September, News Limited saw print circulation for its metropolitan mastheads decline 3.89%, compared with a 15.66% drop for Fairfax, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).

ABC Circulation figures for September 2012 quarter.

The total market dropped 6.67%, with 7.2 million newspapers sold in the period. Only two titles, the Saturday edition of The Daily Telegraph (News Limited) and the Monday to Friday West Australian (West Australian Newspapers), saw increases.

While the difference between Fairfax and News Limited declines is significant, Fairfax has been telling the market for a while that it has been decreasing its unprofitable print circulation in order to invest more heavily in digital. Chief executive Greg Hywood said last month that the company could go to a digital-only model if the print business becomes unprofitable.

In contrast, News Limited has been standing more solidly behind its print product, while still investing in digital.

While numerous Fairfax titles saw double digital print sales declines, the largest drop for News Limited was a 6.11% decrease for the Saturday edition of The Courier Mail in Queensland.

The largest declines for Fairfax were seen in NSW. The Sun-Herald dropped 21.31% year-on-year, while The Sydney Morning Herald declined 15.09% in its weekday edition and 15.87% in its Saturday edition.

The other notable decline for Fairfax was the Sunday Age in Victoria, which fell 15.42%.

The national mastheads all experienced declines. News Limited's The Australian fell 4.64% while The Weekend Australian dropped 5.58%. Fairfax's weekday edition of The Australian Financial Review dropped 6.47%, while the Saturday edition dropped 3.93%.

The newspaper with the highest sales for the period was the Sunday Telegraph (News Limited), which sold 600,236 in the period, down from 606,101 in the previous corresponding period.

Meanwhile, newspaper inserted magazine also fared poorly. The total market saw print circulation drop 7.87%. Not a single title saw an increase in numbers.

The biggest drop was seen by Fairfax's Age (Melbourne) Magazine, which fell 23.79%.

In the last circulation audit, Fairfax chastised its newspaper rivals, saying they were not eliminating unprofitable circulation from their figures, in order to “prop up” results.

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