Newspaper readership and circulation continue their downward slide, but don’t mention the D word

Nielsen’s readership and the ABC’s circulation results do not bode well for the print versions of New Zealand newspapers. Most of the major publications recorded significant drops on both reports, leading to suggestions from some that it might be time to adapt the way statistics are collected so that readership can be measured across all platforms.

According to Nielsen, seven of New Zealand’s eight most widely read papers suffered drops in readership (in their print forms) from the last quarter, with only the Herald on Sunday recording an increase. That publication’s increase was 4,000 readers to a total of 369,000. Things are not going quite as well for the New Zealand Herald, which suffered a dip of 18,000 readers from last quarter, down to 487,000, although APN puts half of that down to the cessation of a literacy in schools programme (see release below). 

Overall, New Zealand’s major papers suffered a 2.1 percent drop in readership in the last quarter, and the statistics only look worse the further back you go. Overall numbers are down 7.6 percent from those calculated at the same time last year, with only the Otago Daily Times and the Herald on Sunday recording an increased readership over that period.   

ABC’s circulation statistics, which record paid subscriptions, don’t tell a much better story. In the past year, circulation of the top eight papers has fallen to the tune of 50,555 subscriptions, with the Sunday News taking the sharpest downward turn: 17.67 percent. Since last quarter, paid subscriptions have continued this trajectory by dropping a further 1.3 percent on average across the board. Only the Sunday News saw a slight increase (0.52 percent) to 34,082. 

  • To see the Nielsen’s readership results, click here
  • To see ABC’s circulations results, click here

In August, after the release of the magazine-related statistics, the Magazine Publishers Association’s Katrina Horton said the organisation was working hard to “add extra dimension and depth to the research stories being taken to the market”. She explained that the research focus should shift from strictly being quantitative to a methodology that takes greater cognisance of the qualitative aspects, such as insights from the readership.

Jenny Stiles, executive director of News Works, also feels that the recent statistics should not be viewed too pessimistically, saying “we don’t see ourselves in a dying industry. This is just a transitional phase”.

She explained that the drop in newspaper readership is largely attributable to the fragmenting repertoire of major publications as they transition onto the web. She said the New Zealand Herald, in particular, had managed to seamlessly shift its content online in a very short period of time and the paper, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary in a couple of weeks, had handled the change very well.     

Stiles also went on to say the decline in newspaper readership has not affected the regional papers too drastically, because these papers still offer local news that cannot be attained online.  

Rural News grew its readership by 5,000 since last quarter, but declined slightly year-on-year to reach a total of 180,000 and Otago/Southland Farmer grew slightly to reach 36,000. 

Rural News Group, home of Rural News and Dairy News, is encouraging marketing and communications professionals to separate the performance of ‘rural print’ from ‘print’, with a new campaign that showcases the connection rural print has with its rural readership and offers punters who fill in the 60 second quiz a trip for two to the 2014 Las Vegas Sevens. 

“The reach of our rural publications has remained pretty consistent over the past three years”, says general manager Adam Fricker. “Basically, the rural market is a different market, with a different set of rules. While metropolitan and daily newspapers have seen a recent drop in reach, the rural market has held steady, continuing to reach six percent of all people 15+ and is the most referenced media for a breadth of rural purchasing decisions … In the comprehensive Nielsen Rural Survey, 91 percent of farmers said that rural print helped them find the latest products and services available.”

APN also seemed more partial to the multi-platform approach to interpretation of statistics and sent out the following release:

The New Zealand Herald’s brand audience is continuing to grow, according to CMI data released by Nielsen today, with 1.3 million people engaging with The Herald in print or online each week.

Daily brand audience is up by 14,000 on the previous quarter to 835,000. Growth has been experienced across all digital platforms, in particular mobile – where audience to our mobile site has grown by 71%, and iPad by 53%.

Despite a relatively strong third quarter, the withdrawal of a sponsored literacy in homes program in West and South Auckland in Q4 last year continues to impact readership of The New Zealand Herald.

The print edition with readership has fallen by 11.9% on last year, to 487,000. Half of this decline on last year is due to the commercial decision to discontinue this program.

The New Zealand Herald continues to dominate the weekend newspaper market. The Weekend Herald remains the best read newspaper in the country, with 558,000 readers each week, and has the two best read newspaper inserted magazines in NZ (Weekend, with 428,000 and Canvas with 415,000).

The Herald on Sunday also continues to lead the Sunday market, with readership increasing by 4,000 people on the previous release. The Herald on Sunday has increased its lead of the Sunday reading market by 14% since the previous release.

APN NZ CEO, Martin Simons said APN was continuing to invest in its brands with the latest reformatted product, VIVA performing exceptionally well following its relaunch earlier this year.

Downloads of the new VIVA app had trebled in the last three months, to over 10,000 downloads to date.

“We recently re-launched Canvas Magazine in the Weekend Herald, after readers told us how much they loved indulging themselves in the insightful, absorbing and stimulating content. Today we are very pleased to be releasing the first full set of results for another of The Herald’s most recent product developments – our weekly food title, Bite, which reaches 209,000 people each week. Bite’s connection with household shoppers on a weekly basis provides unique communication to a high value audience. We are thrilled with these very credible audience numbers for a completely new product reaching out to a unique, new audience.”

APN’s regional daily newspapers, continue to demonstrate the relevance and importance they provide to people in their regions, with readership of the APN Regional portfolio increasing by 4% on the previous release, to 201,000 people on a typical day. 

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