SYDNEY: Even as the circulation figures of Australian newspapers and magazines continue to fall, average readership figures are on the rise as people increasingly share their copies, publishers have claimed.

Data from Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA), an industry funded body, analysed by Mumbrella, show the number of readers per copy increasing for the majority of titles – only four of the 46 examined registered a decrease.

But some figures – such as the leap in readers per copy of Zoo Weekly from 9.44 to 15.24 even as circulation plunged 36.4% – led to scepticism over EMMA's data.

Adam Hodgson, research and operations director at Ipsos MediaCT which conducts the research for the survey, told Mumbrella that "there is no direct correlation between circulation sales figures and readership ... we have to take into account promotions, discounted copies, plus higher readership and pass-on-copies for big news stories."

And Peter Zavecz, director of magazines at Pacific Magazines, argued that in difficult economic times "the appetite doesn't diminish for magazines consumer spending does".

"We see an increase in pass on readers around those sort of times," he added. "It usually happens around families, friends and colleagues – they may not be purchasing them as regularly but they are still accessing them."

The long-running dispute about readership figures, fought out between EMMA and market research firm Roy Morgan, took another turn as the latter announced a new metric – Audience Dollar Value – which aims to put a precise figure on what readers from a media brand spend online.

Michelle Levine, CEO of Roy Morgan, said Australians were spending $750m a week online. "We are now using our online expenditure data to quantify the dollar value of magazines and other media in terms of their reach into the lucrative online market," she said in a statement.

Initial data released by the company shows that readers of Coles Magazine spent a combined $123m a week online, those of Woolworth's Fresh magazine spent $88m, Better Homes and Gardens' readers spent $76m Women's Weekly readers spent $68m and Woman's Day readers $53m.

Data sourced from Mumbrella; additional content by Warc staff