SYDNEY: The number of readers of printed newspapers in Australia continues to decline but online readers are starting to offset print losses according to latest data.

Figures from EMMA (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) show overall print readership fell 2% in the 12 months to February 2015, to 14.2m readers, but at the same time mobile readers increased 14% to 3m per month. Total newspaper readership rose by 2% to 16m, Marketing reported.

"More than three quarters of our population now own a smartphone, which has doubled in the last four years, according to the Telstra Smartphone and Tablet Index," noted Mark Hollands, CEO of the Newspaper Works.

"People are checking their smartphones up to 150 times a day," he added, "and this is where newspapers play a vital role, with readers turning to trusted sources for breaking news and information on the go, wherever they are."

The Sydney Morning Herald claimed to be Australia's most-read news publication, with total readership across all platforms hitting 5.2m in February 2015, up 9% on the same month in 2014. And increases in online readership more than offset declines in print, as they surged 17% to 3.3m.

In terms of print only, however, the Herald Sun remains the leader, with daily weekday readership averaging 1.384m, almost twice the Sydney Morning Herald's figure of 0.721m. In second spot, the Daily Telegraph is the only other newspaper to command an average daily readership in excess of 1m (1.049m).

The chairman of Newspaper Works argued that print occupies a unique position in an increasingly cluttered media landscape.

"There are now hundreds of TV options both in subscription and free-to-air, there are thousands of news sources on the internet," Michael Miller said.

"But in terms of local [newspaper] media brands, in Melbourne you have got two serving the city. You have got two nationally; it's one of the least cluttered media available for advertisers and that makes it a very seamless transaction and effective medium to both understand and to use."

Data sourced from Marketing, Sydney Morning Herald; additional data by Warc staff