SYDNEY: More than half of Australian newspaper audiences are reading news content digitally but stable print figures suggest the choice of platform is dictated by the time of day.

The latest monthly figures from EMMA (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) – the newspaper industry-funded readership survey – show that 58% of readers consume news in a digital format, a figure which rises to 66% among those aged 25-54.

A similar proportion of 18-24 year olds also read news digitally, but this drops off to 52% among 55-69 years olds.

In total, some 2.9m Australians read newspaper content on smartphones and tablets and the number who combine print and digital content has increased by 7% in the past year.

"The digital trend is not new, but it is becoming more pronounced," said Mark Hollands, CEO of industry organisation The Newspaper Works. "What we are not seeing, however, is a swing in the other direction against print readership."

Almost three quarters of Australians (72%) had read a printed newspaper in the preceding four weeks, although the print trend for the country's leading 13 national and metropolitan newspapers was down 2%.

Hollands attributed the 17% overall increase in readership for digital journalism in part to the growing impact of social media, in part to technical developments.

"The increase in publishers posting to social media, plus the new news apps being launched into the market, is very likely powering these new figures," he said.

Hollands added that the "strategic balance" of print and digital products reflected a change in readership dynamics, but he only saw the appetite for quality news journalism increasing. "The major newspaper publishers are continuing to grow their audiences," he said.

The Newspaper Works said that a 3% year-on-year increase for total masthead readership was due to EMMA counting more publications this year than in 2013.

Data sourced from The Newspaper Works; additional content by Warc staff