Mixed Sales Messages from Oz Newspapers

17 October 2005

Mixed news for Australia's daily press as the latest circulation figures are released.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations reports that in the six months ending September 30 John Fairfax Holdings' metropolitan titles continued to struggle.

The Sydney Morning Herald dropped 2.6% in sales compared to the same period last year, while its Saturday edition circulation fell by 3.5%.

In Melbourne, The Age was down 3.1%, and 2.4% lighter on Saturdays.

The sagging readership is blamed on the depressed real estate market with fewer people buying weekend editions. The falls mark a downbeat end to ceo Fred Hilmer's reign at the company as he retires next month after seven years at the helm.

He may be cheered, however, by the continuing climb of online audiences. In the six months to September the number of unique users for smh.com.au rose by 16% to 1.8 million on the previous six months to April. The figure for theage.com.au rose by 22% to 1.4m in the same period.

Meantime, circulation figures for The Australian, flagship title of Rupert Murdoch's News Limited, make more pleasant reading. The weekday edition saw its sales lift 2.9% and posted a rise of 1.6% on Saturdays.

Stablemate The Daily Telegraph in Sydney saw its Saturday sales climb by three percent.

Comments News Ltd's ceo John Hartigan: "There is still a lot to achieve and our faith in being able to significantly grow newspapers as a category is demonstrated in investments we continue to make in upgrading technology and launching new products for readers and advertisers."

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff