Papers chart dual declines, but a rare few buck the trend

While the magazine sector recorded its third consecutive overall readership increase in the latest Nielsen CMI figures, the newspapers haven’t fared quite so well, with an overall decline in total readership for all dailies and metropolitan titles that has been deemed significant by Nielsen and almost universal declines in paid circulation. But there are a couple of diamonds in the rough—particularly The Herald on Sunday and The Waikato Times—and, for those looking on the bright side, the numbers are still holding up much better than they are in comparison to many other markets. 

According to a release, APN’s news and entertainment brands connect with 71 percent (2.7 million) of all New Zealanders each week, up 35,000 compared to this time last year. And with figures mostly taken before the relaunch, The New Zealand Herald’s weekly brand audience has increased by 70,000 people each week, and now engages with 1,365,000 New Zealanders. 

Readership of the printed product has fallen slightly (but not significantly) from 574,000 to 553,000 and its circulation has declined by 2.5 percent to 166,384. The Herald’s print version did chart significant declines in Auckland, down from 401,000 to 376,000, and in the Northern region, from 550,000 to 528,000, but it did have a significant increase in Hamilton (it seems the Waikato just can’t get enough of newspapers at the moment, with the Waikato Times charting a year on year readership increase of 20 percent, although its circulation was down ten percent on last year). 

“On every single day of the week, The Herald continues to deliver more readers in print than any other newspaper in the country,” says APN’s release. “Across a week, more people are engaging with The Herald than this time last year, increasing by 8,000 to 1,018,000 people.”

Traffic to Herald content through the iPad and smartphone apps has more than doubled over this period, the Herald’s mobile site traffic has increased by 46 percent to 829,262 UBs in September this year and the average unique audience to nzherald.co.nz has increased by seven percent over Q3 2012. 

On average its audience viewed 145 Herald pages on iPads last month, an increase of 11 percent on last year, and visitors to the smartphone app viewed, on average, 175 pages in September this year, up 52 percent on last year.

“We are thrilled to see such strong results for the Herald, especially given the fact these results were achieved largely prior to the print edition re-launching into compact format during the week, and the significant redesign of nzherald.co.nz,” says APN chief executive Martin Simons. 

The Herald on Sunday was once again the only title to record an increase inboth readership and circulation on last year. It now delivers more readers than the rest of the Sunday market combined, both in Auckland and across the Northern Region, and it increased its circulation by three percent to 102,031 (this is slightly down on last quarter’s results, however). 

Connecting with 384,000 New Zealanders each week, Herald on Sunday’s readership has increased by 2,000 readers on last year. Its audience has grown by 10,000 in the Northern Region to 362,000, delivering 5,000 more readers than the two other Sunday titles combined. It has experienced similarly strong growth in Auckland, increasing 11,000 to 252,000 readers, 9,000 ahead of the rest of the combined Sunday market. 

New Zealand’s largest national newspaper, the Sunday Star-Times, was down across the board, registering an overall decline in readership of 14 percent year on year and going from 540,000 to 466,000 in an average week. It also registered a 14 percent decline in circulation in the past year to 134,956. Not surprisingly, its newspaper inserted magazine Sunday followed suit, losing around 80,000 readers to reach 409,000 (the Herald’s weekend magazine had a significant increase, up to 402,000, while The Business registered a significant decline to 353,000).

According to a Fairfax release, The Star-Times’ result reflects a tough market in Christchurch, where readership fell from the high levels achieved in 2011 after the earthquakes. Population decline in Christchurch also had an impact. Like magazines, the newspaper sector was keen to showcase its engagement measures and despite the readership and circ decline (and the rumoured departure of editor David Kemeys, which Fairfax wouldn’t comment on last week), the Sunday Star Times remains the country’s most engaging Sunday newspaper, with readers spending on average 49 minutes reading each week.

Fairfax chief executive Allen Williams says the Sunday Star-Times’ team is focused on improving the newspaper and making it more appealing and authoritative. 

“In the past three months we have begun a a project that enables our journalists from throughout the country to contribute to the Sunday Star Times. In particular The Press in Christchurch and The Dominion Post in Wellington are now providing some of their best stories for our Sunday readers,” he says. “We’re also committed to bringing new features and innovations to life in the paper, as seen with the September launch of Link+, which brings the printed page to life via our free Stuff app.”

Like the Star Times, The Dom Post and The Press were down slightly on readership and circ, but The Press‘ Saturday edition is New Zealand’s most engaging newspaper, with readers spending on average 54 minutes reading. 

“We’ve had a very strong year as far as readership for our metropolitan papers goes. The Waikato Times continues to deliver stellar readership growth, and the changes for The Press and Dominion Post are so small as to be statistically insignificant,” says Williams. “Coupled with our extensive network of community newspapers, Fairfax Media connects 84 percent of New Zealanders with the news and information they want.”

Auckland’s Suburban Newspapers reached 796,000 Aucklanders aged 15 and over in an average week. Within Auckland, the Western Leader was up three percent year on year, the Manukau Courier was up 15 percent, Auckland City Harbour News was up 17 percent and the Papakura Courier was up 22 percent. Readership was also up for other community newspapers, with The Wellingtonian up 16 percent, the Upper Hutt Leader up 24 percent and the Hamilton Press up six percent.

“Community newspapers are the absolute coalface of our business. Part of our ethos as a business is to be deeply embedded in the communities we serve and the strength of our community newspaper networks is a testament to that,” says Williams.

Like APN, the online realm is where most of the audience growth is coming from for Fairfax (but, the elephant in the room is that it’s certainly not where all the ad revenue is), with Stuff.co.nz clocking a monthly unique audience of 1,142,000; Stuff.co.nz monthly video views up six percent YOY to 1,328,071; smartphone monthly unique visitors 116,485 (up 96 percent YOY) on iPhone and 404,226 unique visitors on Android (20 times more YOY); and Stuff.co.nz iPad monthly unique visitors 45,895 (up 117 percent YOY). 

Of the other significant readership increases, Dairy News was up significantly to from 61,000 to 78,000, Sunday News charted an increase in Auckland, up from 98,000 to 120,000; and the Otago Daily Times maintained readership and lost just 10 paid subscriptions to reach 38,747. 

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