Newspaper readership and circ results: the erosion continues

Over the last decade the digital age has swept over the cornerstones of newspaper publishing and eroded them with unforgiving consistency. Now, each time the Nielsen’s print readership and the ABC’s circulation results are released, what remains of the major publications look a little smaller than what they were the quarter or year before.

And the release of the latest round of results has, for the most part, simply continued this trend. 


There were year-on-year dips in readership for four of the five daily papers, with only the Waikato Daily Times registering an increase in readership as it went from 81,000 to 82,000 (down from last quarter’s 87,000).

Shedding 36,000 readers over the course of the last year, The Herald suffered the biggest dip among the dailies, but this was to be expected given that it still holds the highest readership number overall. 

Despite the Waikato Times’ strong readership figures, there were dips in circulation across the board: the Herald went from 149,000 to 144,000; the Dominion Post went from 73,000 to 70,000; the Waikato Times slipped from 33,000 to 28,000; The Press dropped from 71,000 to 65,000; and the Otago Daily Times’s circulation declined from 71,000 to 65,000.

In an article published earlier today, the Herald pointed out that despite this dip in circulation, it still has a greater circulation than “the two next biggest daily papers combined”.       

There were also significant dips for the weeklies, with each of publications surveyed looking a bit slimmer in the latest round. The Herald on Sunday was the biggest loser, shedding 40,000 readers as it slipped from 369,000 at the same time last year to 329,00 in the latest round.

In each instance, circulation figures followed the readership as there were dips across the board, except for the Herald on Sunday, which remained stable with a circulation of around 99,000.

Sunday News slipped from 34,000 to 29,000; the Sunday Star-Times dropped from 124 to 118,000; and the NBR slipped from 6,400 to 5,700.   

While there was very little good news on show across the board, the fortnightly newspapers bucked the trend as each of the rural papers surveyed by Nielsen tallied readership growths.

Rural News was enjoyed the biggest bump up as it went from 180,000 to 195,000 readers, followed by Dairy News’ climb from 59,000 to 72,000 and the Otago Southland Farmer’s jump from 36,000 to 47,000 (there were no recent circulation figures published for any of these publications).        

Nielsen surveyed only two papers in the monthly category and there were only year-on-year readership statistics available for the Waikato Times Farmer, which dropped from 41,000 readers last year to 35,000 in the latest survey. 

Each of the newspaper liftouts and inserted magazines followed the general downward trend and shed readers with the exception of Bite, which enjoyed a year-on-year lift of about 8,000 readers as it went from 206,000 to 214,000 readers.

The newspaper liftout section remains an important driver of revenue for newspapers, and Fairfax will no doubt be satisfied to see that Sundaywhich is inserted into the Sunday Star-Times, didn’t shed too many readers in the latest round (only 15,000). The publisher recently gave the publication an editorial and visual revamp, with the aim of further capitalising on the popularity of the publication.      

The community papers have over the course of the last few surveys served up a few positives, and this was again the case as the Auckland City Harbour News (13,000 to 14,000), Eastern Courier (65,000 to 71,000), Manukau Courier (136,000 to 141,000), Nor-West News (7,000 to 9,000) and Papakura Courier (45,000 to 54,000) all registered year-on-year readership growth (circulation figures for community newspapers are published on a yearly rather than quarterly basis).

While the overall results aren’t necessarily good news, it’s worth noting that both Fairfax and NZME are building formidable online news vehicles in Stuff and the NZ Herald, respectively. And while the ad revenue generated by these online publications has not yet reached the levels newspapers enjoyed in their heyday, both major publishers are starting to experiment in innovative ways to generate additional funds in the digital realm.  

In the article published earlier today, the Herald again drew emphasis to its combined print and readership figures, which currently sit at 1.34 million people per week. 

“The New Zealand Herald and nzherald.co.nz have recorded another strong result in the latest readership figures, with our combined print and online audience lifting to 844,000 readers a day and 1.34 million across the week,” said the story.    

  • To see ABC’s full circulation results, click here.
  • To see Nielsen’s full readership stats, click here

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