Thursday, May 11th, 2017 - Roy Morgan Research

Roy Morgan Research today releases the latest Readership results for Australian Newspapers for the 12 months to March 2017, showing cross-platform audience is steady overall thanks to the continuing transition of print readers to digital platforms.

Across print and digital, 12,959,000 Australians 14+ (65 percent) accessed cross-platform newspaper mastheads in the 12 months to March 2017. This is virtually unchanged from the year before. 

Stand-out performers in this latest report are: the Australian Financial Review, increasing readers for both print and digital with an overall increase of 16 percent year on year; The Australian (up 12.9 percent), and the Herald Sun (up 9.6 percent).

Australians are spending more on experiences and less on physical things, and this includes newspapers. Many industries—from retail to automotive to media—are witnessing a move away from traditional forms of ‘ownership’.

The product supplied by all media owners is not the physical publication or recording, but the content—which we are increasingly able to access without owning anything: whether it’s Subscription Video on Demand and music streaming, or readership of mastheads without buying a physical copy.

Transitioning to digital readership away from print

When it comes to newspapers, circulations have been under pressure for years—however overall engagement with newspaper brands remains high. Audiences have the same desire to access newspaper content; they just don’t need to own a physical newspaper.  

This is clearly shown by the trends of rising digital readership and declining consumption of print, however some mastheads (and publishers) have been quicker than others to capitalise on the transition.

Back in 2013, Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reached five million readers a week combined. News Corp’s equivalent state-wide dailies in NSW and Victoria, the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, also reached five million readers.

However, already 69 percent of Fairfax’s audience were accessing the mastheads via website or app (with 50 percent reading any print issues), compared with News Corp’s audience being just 38 percent digital and 74 percent print.

Despite declining circulations, both publishers have expanded their overall audience thanks to digital—but, thanks to its lead in digital, Fairfax has grown more. In the latest 12 months to March 2017, 6.1 million Australians read the Sydney Morning Herald or The Age in print or digital (up 22 percent over the last five years), and 5.9 million read the Daily Telegraph or Herald Sun (up 18 percent).  

For Fairfax, 83 percent of the audience is now using digital platforms, with just 34 percent touching a print copy. For News Corp, digital reach finally surpassed print a year ago, and today  64 percent of the audience reads via website or app—and, for the first time, only half (50 percent) are reading in print.  

Print and Digital Share of Fairfax and News Corp Audiences for their NSW and Victoria state-wide Mastheads:

Cross Platform results for 12 months to March 2017

Five of the 14 newspaper mastheads shown below increased their net weekly print readership—but eight increased their digital audiences: Canberra Times, Courier-Mail, Daily Telegraph, Financial Review, Herald Sun, Sunday Times, Sydney Morning Herald, and The Australian.

Three mastheads gained print and digital readers—and so enjoyed strong overall audience growth: the Financial Review (up 16.6 percent to 1,481,000 readers cross-platform), The Australian (up 12.9 percent to 2,470,000) and the Herald Sun (up 9.6 percent to 3,110,000).

Another four mastheads gained more than enough in digital to offset print declines: The Canberra Times (up 10.0 percent to 538,000 overall), the Daily Telegraph (up 5.7 percent to 3,298,000), the Sunday Times (up 2.2 percent to 1,058,000), and, still not done growing yet, the country’s most-read masthead cross-platform, the Sydney Morning Herald (up 3.8 percent to 4,243,000).

The Courier-Mail also gained digital readers—but not quite enough to offset print declines, and finished down 0.6 percent cross-platform. The Age and the Adelaide Advertiser were both up marginally in print but, against the tide, lost some digital readers and so posted combined cross-platform declines.  

 View the full Cross-Platform Audiences Results

Print Readership

Overall 7.9 million Australians read print newspapers, including 5.6 million who read weekday issues, 4.8 million who read Saturday editions and 4.3 million Sunday titles. Although all these numbers are continuing to decline, the sheer size of the audience demonstrates the ongoing importance of print.

Victorians have an insatiable appetite for good ol’ fashioned print news, especially on the weekend. Monday to Friday readership is steady for both the Herald Sun (844,000 readers per average weekday print issue) and The Age (466,000). On Saturdays, the two mastheads were both the stand-out winners, proving that readership isn’t a zero-sum game between direct competitors. Print readership for the Saturday Age grew 5.9 percent year-on-year to 648,000, and the Herald Sun grew 5.7 percent to 810,000 Saturday readers. The Sunday Age scored a huge 11.1 percent swell in readers up to 530,000, but the Sunday Herald Sun also increased its reach, up 0.8 percent to 854,000.

The country’s best-performing print title overall was also in Victoria: readership of the average Geelong Advertiser issue on Monday to Friday grew 15.1 percent to 61,000.

Both major national titles gained Monday to Friday readers: The Australian grew 10.0 percent to 341,000, and the Australian Financial Review grew 6.3 percent to 204,000. However their weekend editions declined. 

In Queensland, the Cairns Post has bucked the downward trend, growing 8.2 percent to 53,000 print readers on an average weekday and 1.4 percent to 73,000 on Saturdays. In NSW, the Illawarra Mercury has performed best by holding steady with 36,000 readers Monday to Friday and (almost) steady with 38,000 on Saturday. In South Australia, the Sunday Mail grew 2.6 percent to 436,000 readers—outperforming its weekday and Saturday editions.

View the full Newspaper Average Print Issue Readership Results

Newspaper Inserted Magazines

Arriving with The Australian on the first Friday of the month, Wish magazine has continued to record strong growth on the back of the success of its host. Readership of Wish is up 41.6 percent compared with the 12 months to March 2016, to 126,000.

Other stand-out inserted magazines include Sunday Life (up 9.5 percent to 780,000), Good Weekend (up 7.7 percent to 1.3 million on the dot), the Sunday Herald Sun TV Guide (up 7.2 percent to 475,000), the Weekend Australian magazine (up 3.4 percent to 729,000), the Sunday Times TV Guide in WA (up 3.0 percent to 251,000) and SA Weekend (up 1.8 percent to 277,000).

View the full Newspaper Inserted Magazine Readership Results

Michele Levine, CEO – Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Despite pressure on individual print newspaper readership, the overall story for the news and newspaper industry is positive, with publishers successfully transitioning audiences to digital platforms.

“Fairfax has led the way with this transition—growing their overall audience by 22% in the last five years. And even so, this successful transition has not been enough of a buffer to avoid the need for ongoing cuts by the company to staff and operating costs. Much change is imminent, particularly for Fairfax with private equity offers and impending changes to media ownership laws. Although Fairfax’s Domain.com.au is seen as the jewel in the crown, the challenge is to monetise even more of the impressive digital audience growth and valuable audience Fairfax delivers to advertisers, such as Leading Lifestyle and Metrotech Helix Personas, as well those who are regarded as ’Big Discretionary Spenders’.”  

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Roy Morgan Research is Australia’s best known and longest established market research and public opinion survey company. Roy Morgan Single Source is thorough, accurate, and provides comprehensive, directly applicable information about current and future customers. It is unique in that it directs all the questions to each individual from a base survey sample of around 55,000 interviews in Australia and 15,000 interviews in New Zealand annually - the largest Single Source databases in the world. The questions asked relate to lifestyle and attitudes, media consumption habits (including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, cinema, catalogues, pay TV and the Internet), brand and product usage, purchase intentions, retail visitations, service provider preferences, financial information and recreation and leisure activities. This lead product is supported by a nationally networked, consultancy-orientated market research capability.
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