Newspapers get a case of the drops in latest survey

The latest readership and circulation numbers are out and they have continued to go in the wrong direction for newspapers, with every major paper down on both counts when compared to last year and to the last survey result three months ago.

  • Check out the readership numbers here and the circulation numbers here

All up, the print versions of the daily papers lost 154,000 readers compared to the same time last year (down from 1.57 million to 1.42 million). And when weekend coverage was included, they lost 158,000 readers, going from 2.42 million to 2.26 million.

All of the major papers aside from The Otago Daily Times, The Herald on Sunday and The National Business Review charted readership declines deemed significant by Nielsen. The New Zealand Herald’s shift to tabloid last year hasn’t had the positive impact on readership it would’ve hoped for (see APN release below, which claims the withdrawal of its school literacy scheme is part of the reason for the decline, but says the tabloid format has created more impactful advertising), The Waikato Times lost the biggest percentage of readers and the only increase for all the papers surveyed was the fortnightly Otago Southland Farmer, up from 31,000 to 35,000. 

In the weeklies, Fairfax’s two papers—the recently redesigned Sunday News and the Sunday Star Times—both charted big losses in readership and circulation. In fact, The Herald on Sunday has almost caught up with the SST in terms of readership and it continued its consistent run of results over the past few years.

Industry body News Works (see release below) says the decline in hard copy readership needs to be set in context. So, not surprisingly, it was focusing on the high overall readership numbers, the “deep brand connection” New Zealanders have with newspapers, the growth in online and mobile news consumption and the quality/wealth of the newspaper-reading audience. 

The numbers (all year-on-year figures)

New Zealand Herald

Readership: 505,000 (down from 566,000)

Circulation: 153,175 (down 9.6 percent from 169,555)

The Waikato Times

Readership: 83,000 (down from 107,000)

Circulation: 33,887 (down 9.7 percent from 37,526).

The Dominion Post

Readership: 218,000 (down from 241,000)

Circulation: 77,797 (down 3.4 percent from 80,590)

The Press

Readership: 198,000 (down from 235,000).

Circulation: 72,718 (down 5.5 percent from 77,000)

The Otago Daily Times  

Readership: 98,000 (down from 99,000).

Circulation: 37,803 (down 2.1 percent from 38,639).

Sunday News

Readership: 188,000 (down from 256,000).

Circulation: 33,905 (down 23.7 percent to 44,445)

Sunday Star Times

Readership: 408,000 (down from 505,000)

Ciculation 124,278 (down 11.61 percent from 140,608)

Herald on Sunday

Readership: 365,000 (down from 387,000)

Circulation: 100,221 (down 2.1 percent from 102,385)

National Business Review

Readership: 48,000 (down from 52,000)

Circulation: 6,719 (down 12.8 percent from 7,711

Newspaper inserted magazines largely followed their parents in terms of readership, but there were a few year-on-year rises, including Canvas, Weekend Magazine, Living and ElementThe Business, Travel and TimeOut were steady. 

The releases: 


The withdrawal of a sponsored literacy in the home program for families with students attending low decile schools in West and South Auckland has continued to impact The New Zealand Herald readership which was down 6% to 505,000 daily readers in the latest Consumer & Media Insights survey released by Nielsen today. 

About half of the 6% drop on the last survey period (20,000 fewer readers) was due to the withdrawal of the school copies – a decision made by the company to discontinue uneconomic Herald circulation. 

The literacy program began in January 2010 and ended in Q4 2012. Supporting reading in poor schools was aligned with the Herald’s goals of improving the lives of New Zealanders but eventually it was a cost the company could not sustain, APN New Zealand CEO Martin Simons said. 

Unfortunately the withdrawal of the program had impacted the Herald’s year-on-year readership trends in 2012-13. 

Mr Simons said the company’s focus on improving circulation quality had also resulted in the elimination of NIE and education copies, reducing the Herald’s sponsored programs to less than 2% of total sales. More than 60 per cent of Herald circulation is home-delivered. 

The move to compact and further investment in its newspaper inserted magazine portfolio, including this month’s relaunch of Viva Magazine, has helped The Herald sustain its strong readership position, Mr Simons said. 

The Herald connects with close to one million (944,000) readers across a week, with the best-read newspaper in the country, The Weekend Herald, reaching 563,000 people. The Herald brand remained one of the strongest in New Zealand, reaching 1.3 million people in print and online across a week. 

Mr Simons said the print audience was holding well at a time when online readership of all news was increasing at the rate of 20% a year. Mobile devices were driving this trend, with Herald mobile site visitation up 75% and the iPad 50% higher. 

There were more plans for Herald product improvement and digital extension, ensuring its continuing relevance as the premier news and entertainment brand. The Viva relaunch had been well supported by advertisers and readers, with the new Viva iPad app downloaded 3,500 times with 10,000 user sessions in its first week of release. 

Engagement with the Herald’s print content remained the stand-out metric, with readers spending almost half an hour reading the Herald on a typical week day, and 51 minutes reading the Weekend Herald. 

IMPACTFUL ADVERTISING: Mr Simons said recent independently commissioned research had confirmed that the move to compact has resulted in more impactful advertising campaigns – in particular across premium positions which have shown the strongest ad recall. This, coupled with Herald readers’ high discretionary income (more than double the average New Zealander), presented a powerful responsive media. 

NEWSPAPER INSERTED MAGAZINES: The Herald’s portfolio of Newspaper Inserted Magazines (NIMs) remained strong reader drivers, with TimeOut, Weekend and Canvas now leading the category. 

“The results of the Advertising Performance research clearly demonstrate that our NIMs are strong branding environments. Readers tell us that the advertising in our NIMs can generate strong empathy with an advertisement, and are particularly effective in shifting brand perceptions and sentiment, ultimately inspiring them to purchase,” Mr Simons said. 

SUNDAY: Herald on Sunday continued to perform the best of all major newspapers, enhanced by the significant redesign of the product in Q1 this year. With 365,000 readers overall, Herald on Sunday continues to be the best read Sunday in the North Island, increasing its lead 41% on the previous release. 

REGIONAL NEWSPAPERS: 194,000 New Zealanders turn to an APN regional daily newspaper on a typical day, connecting with information they trust, which keeps them connected to their local community. Unique audience levels on APN regional daily websites have grown by 70% on last year, to 239,000. 

“In what has been a challenging survey for most print brands, we are encouraged to see our brands continue to deliver great results. Engagement with our content remains very strong, and there’s significant trust in all our media brands”, Mr Simons said. 

News Works: 

News consumers have a deep brand connection with their newspapers demonstrated by the high rate of home delivery in New Zealand and the increasing popularity of digital newspaper brands.

This from News Works commenting on the latest Nielsen Consumer and Media Insights report released Friday August 9.  News Works is the commercial arm of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association and represents all the interests of the newspaper industry.

Executive director Jenny Stiles says the latest Nielsen readership report shows that overall readership numbers remain high with 1.42m readers on a typical day rising to 2.26m across the week.

“Importantly, readership includes 485,000 people living in households with an income of $120,000 or more, an increase of 15,000 readers year-on-year. That demonstrates the ongoing relevance and connection for affluent readers, of importance to advertisers.”

But the increased number of ways readers can access newspaper brands has impacted hard-copy newspaper readership numbers this time around, Stiles says.

“While hard copy readership has shown some decline, there has been impressive digital growth by newspaper brands as readers switch seamlessly between print and digital formats.

“Stuff.co.nz and nzherald.co.nz are the country’s top news websites and when combined with the odt.co.nz they reach an impressive number of around 1.6 million New Zealanders each month.  That’s a year-on-year increase of nearly 16 per cent.

“And both the Herald and Stuff have increasing take-up of news apps on mobile devices with daily unique browsers up 34 and 22 per cent respectively for July compared to last year.”

Stiles says the reported decline in hard copy readership needs to be set in context.

“The increase in reading options has put pressure on straight newspaper readership numbers. But that can also be attributed in part to a retreat from the peak of 2011 where the country experienced several major news events – the Christchurch earthquake, the Rugby World Cup and the election.”

New research out this year from both TNS and Nielsen also proves that newspapers have unsurpassed depth of connection and engagement with readers that spins off to their digital brands, Stiles says.

“The high subscriber rates relate to loyalty and deep brand connection which is borne out in two pieces of recent research. They clearly show newspapers are highly-valued for their depth of credible content.”

The research shows newspapers are strongly positioned as being trusted and reliable and consumers enjoy the reading experience, where they are able to freely choose articles and advertising that is relevant to them, Stiles says.

She also cites Nielsen’s recently released Media Engagement Study (n=3,000 media consumers) which shows high levels of engagement for newspapers overall and for newspaper sections. That led to a demonstrable stronger call to action for newspapers over radio, TV and magazines, she says.

“This latest Nielsen survey measures engagement and inspiration levels as opposed to straight reach and will be a powerful tool for advertisers.”

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