Fairfax titles experience hardest fall in print; digital rises to stave off losses

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 14 August 2015

When it comes to print declines, Fairfax is the hardest hit according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures.

When looking at Australian average net paid print sales, Fairfax has experienced a year-on-year (yoy) drop of 9.94% over its stable, which includes publications The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), the Australian Financial Review and The Age.

News Corp didn't fair much better, with its raft of print publications including The Australian, Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and Courier Mail experiencing an 8.59% fall over all its titles yoy.

The West Australian across its daily and Saturday papers saw an overall decline of 2.87% yoy.

All major publishers however are all arming themselves for a digital race - as both News Corp and Fairfax flagged in their full year financial results yesterday - and when it comes digital sales, in some cases they are starting to overtake print losses.

A Fairfax spokesperson said: "Print circulation is an historical production metric. At Fairfax Media, our focus is on the audience that is consuming our content across all platforms, therefore, readership is a more accurate and modern metric. Readership gives us a clear picture of audience growth and engagement across print, websites, mobile and tablet."

"Like all media organisations, our sales efforts are firmly focused on selling audiences. But it’s not just any audience. We are most interested in a high quality and engaged audience. And so are our advertisers."

News Corp's flagship broadsheet, The Australian (Monday to Friday edition), saw its average net paid digital sales rise 9.1% to 70,698, with its average net paid print sales falling 7.54% yoy.

The Weekend Australian also saw a 9.2% rise in digital sales, with its average net paid print sales falling 3.03%.

The Australian's boost in digital subscribers comes four months after it rolled out its rewards program, The Australian Plus, off the back of its subscription model News Plus, in order to attract and retain subscribers.

Herald Sun's digital growth also outshines its print losses, with the title falling 8.58% in print but its digital sales growing 18.5% to 59,850 yoy.

A News Corp Australia spokesman said: “The latest data release from the Audit Bureau of Circulation [ABC] shows significant increases in net paid digital sales for our titles, providing further evidence of the success of our digital subscription program.

“Elsewhere, the ABC data shows that News Corp Australia continues to outperform its competitors and that we continue to see a slowing of circulation declines.”

Fairfax's most read title, the SMH, saw an 11.97% drop in average net paid print sales, Monday to Friday, with its Saturday edition fallingl 9.42% yoy. In terms of digital sales it grew 9.9% yoy.

According to the ABC numbers, the SMH sold 234,625 print and digital versions Monday to Friday for the June reporting period, and according to the publisher-funded Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA) metric in the data for the 12 months to June 2015, the SMH reached a total audience of 5.1 million.

Fairfax's The Sun Herald fell 13.93% yoy in print, with its digital sales growing 9.8% yoy.

When it comes to newspaper inserted magazines (NIMs), News Corp's The Deal was the biggest winner with a rise of 16.29% yoy.

All other NIMs experienced a loss, with the NSW titles Sunday Life and Sunday Style being the hardest hit, seeing print declines of 13.99% and 10.16% respectively.

See the numbers for yourself here.

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