Melbourne papers buck digital trend

The big two Melbourne newspapers saw their print readerships increase during the past year, in contrast to the national trend which saw print on the decline and digital consumption increasing.

More than 12 million Australians read newspapers, and overall readers are choosing digital platforms over print, according to research by Roy Morgan.

The best read newspaper is the Sydney Morning Herald, but its average seven day print readership has dropped from 1.1 million last year to 1 million in 2017, whereas its digital numbers have grown from 3.4 million in 2016 to 3.7 million this year.

The average seven day print readership for the Daily Telegraph dropped from 1.5 million last year to 1.3 million this year. Its digital sector grew from 2 million hits to 2.4 million.

Conversely The Melbourne Age had a growth in print readers and a drop in digital hits, with print growing from 935,000 in 2016 to 950,000 this year, while its digital numbers fell from 2.4 million last year to 2.3 million this year.

The Herald Sun grew both its print and its digital readers, with print it grew 1.55 million in 2016 to 1.57 million in 2017 and with its digital numbers it grew from 1.7 million to 1.9 million year on year.

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Weekend print editions in Victoria all increased their print readership over the past year with the Sunday Herald Sun up 2.3 per cent, Saturday Herald Sun up 5.0 per cent to 825,000, Saturday Age up 2.4 per cent to 651,000 and the Sunday Age up an impressive 8.5 per cent 536,000.

In contrast the three leading weekend newspapers in New South Wales and Queensland all lost ground over the past year. In addition to the 10.1 per cent decrease for the Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Mail is down 10.2 per cent to a readership of 685,000 and the Sun-Herald lost 7.9 per cent to 579,000.

Michele Levine, CEO at Roy Morgan Research, says the growth of the experience economy is increasingly shaping the way Australians consume news, “Cross-platform audiences of Australia's leading mastheads have grown strongly over the last year, led by increasing digital take-up as Australians turn to websites and apps to consume their favourite sources of news, rather than the traditional print medium.

"However, although capital city publications like market leader the Sydney Morning Herald – now with over 4.2 million readers via print and digital – are completing the transition to a digital future, the impact of the global village is presenting a significant challenge to regional newspapers in Australia that have faced steep declines in readership over the same time period and clearly need to find new ways to engage local audiences.”

Overall 7.8 million Australians read printed newspapers, including 5.6 million who read weekday issues, 4.7 million who read Saturday editions and 4.3 million the Sunday titles. Although these numbers have declined over the past year, Roy Morgan says the sheer size of the audience demonstrates the ongoing importance of print – 60 per cent of Australians aged 14+ can be reached by newspapers each week.

[Related: August print ad revenue plunges]

Sydney Morning Herald is the most read paper with a cross-platform readership of 4,235,000, up 3.8 per cent. Sydney rival, the Daily Telegraph with a cross-platform reach of 3,418,000 is up 10.5 per cent in a year.

Levine says, "For newspapers wondering how to leverage their existing name recognition to increase their readership the success of newspaper inserted magazines over the past year is an encouraging sign and indicates that the growth of the experience economy won't always come at the expense of the traditional print medium.

"Australia's leading newspaper inserted magazines all experienced print readership growth in the year to June 2017 suggesting that for many Australians the experience of 'escaping' the immersive nature of the digital world while relaxing on the weekend is best done with a glossy magazine easily accessible via your local weekend newspaper."

Although Australia’s move to digital is impacting print editions of Australia’s leading Monday to Friday newspapers, the performance of Australia’s leading weekend newspapers is splitting on familiar geographic lines – decreasing in New South Wales and increasing in Victoria.

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