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Papers tread water on readership, celebrate digital increases, struggle for circ

Wayne's Eye View via Flickr Wayne's Eye View via Flickr

The magazine sector was celebrating a mostly positive swing after the latest readership, circ and, importantly, engagement figures were released last week. And while the numbers aren't quite so good for the newspaper sector, the sky is still not falling. 

Readership

Nielsen's consumer and media insights report reveals that in the dailies stable, the Waikato Times and The Dominion Post yielded the only positive national results with The New Zealand Herald, The Press and Otago Daily Times all experiencing marginal readership drops. The Waikato Times earned Nielsen’s ‘significant’ stamp thanks to a jump in readership to 107,000, up from 91,000 readers over the same period last year. The Dominion Post’s increase was small, but 'twas an increase nevertheless, up from 231,000 to 241,000 and it also experienced a slight increase in the central region results. The New Zealand Herald, The Press and Otago Daily Times all experienced marginal readership drops in the national results and readership across The Press and Otago Daily Times also dipped slightly in the Southern region.

In the weekly newspaper stakes, the news isn’t so good for Sunday Star Times and NBR, each earning a significant stamp from Nielsen for not-positive reasons. Sunday Star Times’ readership dropped by 37,000 to 505,000 and NBR dropped 13,000 readers on the same period last year, with its readership now at 52,000. In the Northern region, Sunday Star Times picked up another significant from Nielsen, its readership dropping from 282,000 to 258,000. In that same region the Herald on Sunday was the only one to up its readership, up from 352,000 to 366,000. In the Auckland region, Sunday Star Times experienced another significant loss, dropping 18,000 readers to sit at 178,000. Fellow Fairfax publication Sunday News upped its readership in Auckland from 100,000 to 119,000. 

None of the newspaper liftouts or inserted magazines offered up revolutionary results, each holding their own apart from Sunday, which was the only one deemed significant by Nielsen. Losing readership ground, it dropped 52,000 readers in the national results, down to 448,000 when compared to 500,000 over the same period last year. 

Circulation

Moving to ABC's circ results, the news doesn't bode quite so well, although with positive readership results already under its belt, APN’s Herald on Sunday has more to celebrate as the only weekly press to up its circ, selling 102,385 copies on average per week, up four percent on last year’s 98,042. All other weeklies were down on circ, NBR and Sunday Star Times experiencing the biggest decreases, both down by around 12 percent. And while Sunday News managed to up its readership, its circ was down ten percent, from 49,801 to 44,445.

The Dominion Post, The New Zealand Herald, Otago Daily Times, The Press, Southland Times and Waikato Times all experienced circ drops. Putting a dampener on its impressive readership results, the circ figures reveal the Waikato Times took the biggest knock of the group, down six percent to 37,526 when compared to 40,014 over the same period last year.

Digital

APN trumpeted its digital prowess, with average monthly unique browsers to The Herald’s website increasing two percent over the past year to June 2012. The number of consumers connecting with The Herald exclusively online is up by almost 40 percent on last year. And engagement time on the site also increased a further four percent and visits to its mobile sites increased by 60 percent over the six-month period to July 2012, compared to the same time last year. Connections through the smartphone apps (iPhone and Android) have more than doubled, up 210 percent, and Herald iPad visitors also increased 124 percent over the period.

Over in Fairfax’s digital world, Stuff.co.nz clocked a monthly unique audience of 1,070,000. Video content is also on the up, jumping 25 percent year-on-year to reach 1,272,461. Smartphone monthly unique visitors rose to 110,830 on iPhone (up 110 percent) and 372,276 via Android. iPad monthly unique visitors reached 42,657, up 140 percent year-on-year.

In a release, APN New Zealand chief executive Martin Simons says the latest results showed more consumers are recognising APN’s content strength. 

“Maintaining audience for printed products is commendable in the digital age. Growing print audiences is exceptional. The fact we have been able to do this, while continuing to build our digital presence, will underpin the future success of our business.”

And in its press release, Fairfax, which is currently trying its best to distance itself from the problems facing its parent company in Australia (keep an eye out for an opinion piece from Sandra King in the near future on that very topic), offered up plenty of commentary on the readership front, but not surprisingly not very much on circ. Okay, none.

Chief executive Allen Williams says the latest results are a resounding endorsement of the company’s publications and platforms. 

“These results follow on from the previous quarter’s strong results, putting paid to the often used throwaway comment predicting the demise of print. We’re really pleased to have such overall positive readership results across our brands, from print through to digital.”

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