Increase in digital sales allays decline in newspapers

Industry group The Newspaper Works said the tough economy and structural changes in publishers’ businesses had contributed to the decline in circulation.AUSTRALIA’S newspapers have again recorded disappointing circulation and readership figures, with overall weekday circulation down by 5.7 per cent year-on-year. But digital sales have provided some positive news, with many publications recording double-digit growth.
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Fairfax, which is continuing its strategy of stripping out unprofitable newspaper sales, has recorded the biggest falls in print. According to the Audit Bureaux of Australia, weekday circulation of The Age is down 14 per cent year-on-year, with Saturday down 13.2 per cent.

The Age’s main competitor, the Herald Sun, is down 6.4 per cent on Saturdays and 5 per cent during the week. Readership figures echo the decline, with The Age’s weekly readership down 13.6 per cent, according to Roy Morgan Research.

But digital circulation figures showed strong growth for Fairfax titles, with The Age experiencing huge lifts in digital sales, growing 81 per cent, quarter-on-quarter, across all editions and the weekday Age enjoying 127 per cent growth quarter-on-quarter.

Industry group The Newspaper Works said the tough economy and structural changes in publishers’ businesses had contributed to the declining circulation. Chief executive Tony Hale said while there were 18.4 million copies of newspapers sold each week, the circulation data was only a partial measurement of the audience of newspapers, with publishers implementing digital strategies to capture audiences in print, online, on mobiles and tablets.

Chief executive of Fairfax’s Metro Media business, Jack Matthews, said Fairfax’s expansion of its news brands across platforms was validated by the latest figures. ”We are right to be focusing on the digital and mobile expansion of all of our mastheads so we can capture as much of that shift as possible. This is industry-wide and it requires the kind of fundamental overhaul … which we have embarked on at The Age and The SMH. We’re doing so to make print sustainable for the future and we’re doing so from the best possible position as shown in the first total masthead readership results.”

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