Print readership slide continues, but news brands grow

Nielsen and the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) have released 2013’s fourth quarter readership and circulation statistics for newspapers and magazines. And while the previous article on magazines held some good news, the numbers for newspapers are far bleaker. 

  • View ABC’s statistics here.
  • Peruse Nielsen’s latest release here.

Nielsen’s readership insights for newspapers are exclusively based on print. So while the statistics might not seem promising, they only offer a glimpse at one aspect of readership. And this is particularly relevant when it comes to larger publications, like the Herald, which are placing added emphasis on digital channels of delivery.         

When it came to the daily papers, every publication surveyed suffered significant year-on-year drops, except for the Otago Daily Times, which dipped slightly as it went from 96,000 readers to 94,000 (also down from the 97,000 posted in the third quarter of 2013).

The publication that saw the highest exodus of readers was the Herald, which dropped by 56,000 as it went from 531,000 to 475,000. The second biggest loser in terms of number of print readers was The Press, which shrank from 215,000 to 194,000 readers.

Although it didn’t match the Herald or The Press in terms of numbers of readers, the Waikato Times lost approximately 16,000 readers in the past year as it dropped from 96,000 to 80,000.

The final paper surveyed in the daily category was the Dominion Post, which also suffered a year-on-year drop from 235,000 to 211,000.

And the circulation figures simply accentuated the bad news, as all the major publications surveyed by ABC suffered circulation dips.  

Given that these numbers only provide a reflection of print readership and circulation, APN placed emphasis on the Herald’s digital growth in a release about the statistics. A statement from the media conglomerate pointed out that if online and mobile considerations were included in the survey, it would’ve shown that the Herald’s readership had grown by 10,000 readers from the previous year.

“The Herald’s growth has been led by its digital media platforms. Online visitation has grown by 13 percent in the last year to 1,596,000 monthly Unique Visitors … [And] The Herald’s mobile audience has also continued to soar. The NZH mobile app and iPad audiences have both increased by 23 percent (to 219,000 and 103,000 monthly visitors respectively), and the audience on mobile web is up 58 percent – all in the last 12 months,” said the release.

In the last few weeks, APN has also attempted to address the drop in print readership by mailing subscription specials to homes that don’t receive the papers. A recent promotion offered potential customers a complimentary five-week trial, during which they could have the paper delivered to their front doors.

As we move across to the weekly papers, the bad news continues as three of the four publications surveyed registered year-on-year dips in readership.

In this category, the Sunday News and the Sunday Star Times experienced significant drops, with the former going from 220,000 to 179,000 while the latter shrank from 432,000 to 400,000. And the National Business Review followed in suit by dropping from 53,000 to 41,000

The exception in this group was the Herald on Sunday, which managed to increase its year-on-year readership from 362,000 to 382,000.

Despite the Herald of Sunday’s positive performance in terms of readership, all four publications surveyed suffered dips in circulation numbers.

But the readership and circulation declines did not end there. The fortnightly and monthly publications all suffered readership dips, except for the Otago Southland Famer, which grew from 33,000 to 38,000. 

The same cannot be said of the other publications surveyed in these two categories. Dairy News dropped from 83,000 to 54,000, Rural News went from 193,000 to 188,000, the Central Districts Farmer fell from 39,000 to 28,000 and the Waikato Times Farmer slid from 47,000 to 39,000.

ABC only published circulation results for the Otago Southland Farmer, which suffered a small year-on-year drop as it went from 20,705 units in the fourth quarter of 2012 to 20589 a year later. 

Despite the fact that the readership and circulation figures of almost all the major national papers has receded over the past few years, News Works believes that there has been growth in news brands.

“[The] latest online ratings from Nielsen show an increase in the number of people accessing news brand websites – nzherald.co.nz, stuff.co.nz and odt.co.nz – with 22 percent more readers  (unduplicated) engaging with these news brands over the latest period.  Add to that those reading one of the many printed publications – daily, community or Sunday papers – and the reach of the country’s newspaper brands has grown to over 3.3 million people,” said a release from Jenny Stiles, the executive director at the organisation.

The release also pointed out that it wasn’t all bad news, and that some regional publications had performed well over the last year.

“The relevance and connectedness of the local daily papers in regional New Zealand is evident with weekly readership of the Gisborne Herald, Hawke’s Bay Today, Wanganui Chronicle, The Marlborough Express, Ashburton Guardian and Otago Daily Times either growing or maintaining readers in the past 12 months.”

And the same could also be said of the community newspapers, which had a few solid performers in Central Leader (87,000 to 97,000), East & Bays Courier (57,000 to 67,000), Eastern Courier (59,000 to 70,000), The Star Midweek (114,000 to 120,000) and the Christchurch Mail (116,000 to 135,000). And although it registered a small drop in readership (54,000 to 51,000), the Dunedin edition of The Star also had a decent year in terms of maintain print readership.   

These solid performances were also emulated in the circulation figures, which showed growth for The Star (only slight), Eastern Courier, East & Bays Courier and Central Leader.

The consistent readership numbers for community papers suggests that these publications continue to appeal to readers, and this could be attributable to that fact that their pages often contain location-specific information that isn’t necessarily available online.

Interestingly, Nielsen’s statistics indicate that newspaper liftouts and inserted magazines remain well read.

Of the 11 publications that had year-on-year comparative results, five publications – Sunday, Timeout, Your Weekend, Waikato Times Motortimes and Viva – suffered marked drops.

And on the other side of the scale, Canvas’ readership grew from 399,000 last year to 413,000, Weekend Magazine jumped from 391,000 to 415,000, Living went from 286,000 to 307,000 and element climbed from 133,000 to 138,000. 

*When first published, this article incorrectly referenced Q3 statistics; this has now been corrected. 

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