And now, the newspaper news

The magazine sector had some pretty good news to report in the latest round of readership and circulation figures and, given what’s happening internationally, the New Zealand newspaper sector should also be fairly pleased with the results, which show there’s still plenty of life in the old dogs yet. 

Overall, Nielsen’s consumer and media insights report showed national readership for dailies, metros and weeklies was fairly static, except for regional dailies (including weekend coverage), which went up from 907,000 to 954,000. That might surprise Kevin Roberts.

The Dominion Post was up 16,000 readers year on year (or seven percent) to 241,000 and increased from 197,000 to 223,000 in the central region, which was one of the few increases deemed significant by Nielsen.

The Waikato Times, which shifted to morning publication in September 2011, cracked six figures, increasing from 94,000 to 104,000.

The Herald on Sunday also continued its rising trend, increasing its readership by 11,000 (or three percent) to 394,000. It has cemented its lead in the Northern region with 112,000 more readers than the Sunday Star Times, which was down 22,000 in this region (nationally, it dropped 26,000 readers to 514,000 and Sunday magazine was down ‘significantly’ from 511,000 to 423,000).

In Auckland, HoS had a big increase of 33,000 readers for a total readership of 268,000, which is 22,000 more than the other two Sunday titles combined (the SST dropped 20,000 readers in Auckland but added 13,000 in Wellington).

Conversely, The Herald was down 27,000 nationally to 566,000, down 25,000 to 542,000 in the Northern Region and down 21,000 in Auckland to 394,000.

The Weekend Herald, which was judged New Zealand’s best newspaper at the 2012 Canon Media Awards but doesn’t feature individually in Nielsen’s readership data, continues to be the best read newspaper in the country, with 89,000 more readers than the Sunday Star-Times. 

The Audit Bureau of Circulation figures were, as per usual, a slightly different kettle of fish. And, after the newspaper industry decided last year that copies purchased at 30 percent of the cover price would be included in the paid circ figures rather than the traditional 50 percent figure still being used by the magazine sector, we did wonder if this has had an effect on the numbers.

The HoS increased its paid circulation to 101,711 copies sold on average per week and was the only publication that recorded an increase in both measures.

The circ results for The Herald were much better than its readership, holding firm on 170,202 copies sold, down minutely from 170,677 last year.

Despite the significant readership increases, The Dom Post was down around 3,000 paid copies to 81,017 and The Waikato Times was down around 1,000 to 38,807. The Press, which retained the readers it gained during a tumultuous 2011 for a total of 238,000, fell from 81,017 to 77,486.

The Fairfax Sunday titles didn’t fare too well in paid circ, with a drop of close to 8,000 to 44,031 for Sunday News and a drop of around 17,000 for Sunday Star Times to 143,189.

The National Business Review, which appears to be focusing on growing digital revenue, also dropped significantly, down from 9,093 to 7,972 (in readership, it dropped 8,000 to 55,000 over the year before).

Of course, while some readers move away from paper, many are moving towards their screens. It’s just much more difficult to make money from it, with the Pew Research Centre in the US showing there’s been just $1 of digital revenue gained for every $7 of print revenue lost.

The Herald’s overall brand audience across print and online over a week is now 1.33 million, an increase of 56,000 on the same period last year. And the Herald’s daily brand audience has grown by 54,000 to 818,000.

nzherald.co.nz won the best news website award at the Canon Media Awards and is also enjoying strong audience growth, with monthly UBs increasing by 11 percent over the twelve month period to March 2012 on the same period last year and growth in the time on site increasing five percent.

Martin Simons, chief executive of APN’s NZ media business says the current results from Nielsen, along with the accolades recently won at the Canon Media Awards, underpin the company’s vision of being New Zealand’s leading media organisation.

“At APN we have incredible belief in our media brands, and are proud of the connection we have with New Zealanders,” he says. “We have a strong base of brand advocates, who strive to deliver the very best content on every platform each week. To have this recognised by the industry and by our readers is what is at the essence of what we strive for every day.”

As for Fairfax, 84 percent of New Zealanders aged 15+ interact with one of its brands every day.

“New metrics available for the first time this quarter show high levels of reader engagement with Fairfax daily and weekend newspapers, spending on average 34 minutes per day reading weekday papers and 63 minutes per day reading weekend editions,” says the release.

Like APN, Fairfax was also trumpeting its digital performance, with Stuff.co.nz reaching 1.66 million people aged 15 and over in April 2012, monthly unique visitors to the Stuff mobile site up 121 percent to 1,139,705, iPhone app users up 131 percent year-on-year to 99,881 unique monthly viewers, iPad app users up 226 percent year-on-year to 36,209 unique monthly viewers, and video views on stuff.co.nz averaging more than 1.1 million streams every month.

Allen Williams, Fairfax Media’s chief executive, says the strength of the performance of metropolitan dailies shows how important newspapers are in the daily lives of New Zealanders.

“The performance of our newspapers, combined with the strong growth in online and mobile platforms, shows New Zealanders are reaching out to Fairfax Media’s brands for the news and information they want, when and where it suits them best. The fact that our readers are dedicating more than 30 minutes of their day to actively engaging with our newspapers shows what a crucial role they play in providing news and information.”

Newspapers came second to TV for the first time in the recent ASA ad revenue figures and many of the big publishers are up to their eyeballs in debt, so the coffers—or the editorial floors—certainly aren’t as full as they used to be. But these figures show newspapers are still an important—and popular—medium.

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