Local papers buck trend with climbing readership

Newspaper doomsayers are prematurely forecasting the end of local and regional newspapers, according to the latest Roy Morgan research, which finds many small titles are bucking the trend and finding new local readers.

Despite the axing warpath forged by media giants Fairfax and News Corp – which has seen the closure of dozens of small-time community newspapers this year alone – a legion of local papers across Australia are rapidly growing readership.

In the 24-month period leading up to September 2016, five local newspapers in Sydney had swelling readership figures, with six titles in Melbourne, five in Brisbane, three in Perth and another three in Adelaide posting positive results.

In Sydney, the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader kept its lead as the most-read community paper, with 220,000 readers per average issue – up 15.8 per cent compared with the same period to September 2015.

Other Sydney titles with growing readership include the Bankstown-Canterbury Torch, up 8.2 per cent, the Penrith Press, up by 21 per cent, the Northern District Times up by 11 per cent and the Mosman Daily climbing by 5.8 per cent.

In Melbourne, seven of News Corp’s Leader publications ceased printing in June, however before it closed, the Melton Leader was Melbourne’s fastest growing Community title – up 47.8 per cent to 34,000 readers.

Among the remaining Leader titles, growth was strongest for Maribyrnong (up 20 per cent to 24,000), Hume (up 6.1 per cent to 52,000), Bayside (up 5.6 per cent to 76,000), Maroondah (up 4.7 per cent to 45,000), Whittlesea (up 3.2 per cent to 65,000) and Moonee Valley (up 2.8 per cent to 36,000).  

[Related: Research finds print volumes falling fast]

In Brisbane, the South-West News, including its specially-badged Springfield News edition, grew 12.5 per cent to 54,000 readers per average weekly issue. The total Pine Rivers Press including North Lakes Times editions also jumped by 8 per cent, as did the Noosa News by 5.9 per cent and Ipswich Advertiser at 5.8 per cent.

Perth’s the stand-out performer over the past year wss the Hills/Avon Valley Gazette, up 13.3 per cent, with three other titles making gains: the Perth Voice by 5 per cent, and the Echo and Sound Telegraph both up by 4.9 per cent.

In Adelaide, the combined reach of its Messengers publications declined only 1.7 per cent overall, making it the best performing city for Community newspaper readership. 

The City North Messengers rose 14.7 per cent to 39,000, ahead of the Northern Messenger which grew up 10 per cent, and East Torrens Messenger seeing a 6.9 per cent jump in readership.

Michelle Levine, Roy Morgan CEO commented on the surprising upsurge in local newspaper readership.

“Roy Morgan’s latest readership results show that these free publications reach over six million Australians a week, and provide an unmatched, localised platform for smaller advertisers in the area—as well as national retailers and banks needing to engage effectively with individual suburban target markets,” she says.

“The Melton Leader was the fastest-growing community newspaper in the country—until News Corp closed the title in June alongside six others in the stable.”

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