Australian news media brands have delivered record readership of 18.2 million, reaching more than nine out of 10 Australians (96%), but the industry continues to struggle with revenues thanks to the ongoing disruption wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The uptick in readership, the highest since the inception of emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) in 2013, has been fuelled by Australians seeking reliable and trusted news and information during COVID-19 with digital consumption of news media the key driver.

Across measured digital platforms, news media reached 17.2 million Australians, representing 91% of the population aged 14+, a 10% audience increase compared to the previous period (Dec 19). Despite the pandemic, print audiences continued to reach 12.7 million, or two in three Australians (67%).

NewsMediaWorks CEO Peter Miller said misinformation has been rife during the pandemic, but the figures demonstrate that Australians know to turn to the trusted medium of news media when accuracy and trust are critical.

“As we start to emerge from lockdown, the need for reliable and timely information will continue and for businesses looking to bounce back by advertising in credible media channels, the trust halo news media generates will play a crucial role in their recovery,” he added.

However, the record consumption of news content comes as media organisations the world over are struggling to reconcile readership spikes with a downturn in ad revenues. Many brands have reduced or halted advertising plans for the year.

WARC’s recent Global Ad Trends report estimates a 30.9% drop in newspaper adspend with the overall ad market contracting 8.1% or A$1.8bn in 2020.

In Australia, News Corp recently announced a total of 112 print newspapers will stop the presses, including 36 which will close altogether and 76 which will remain as online mastheads. News Corp will not specify how many staff each title will have, if any, or how much local reporting will continue.

The media company’s chairman, Michael Miller, said the papers would move to digital as the impact of coronavirus has hit the advertising spending that keeps the print papers afloat.

"Our portfolio review highlighted that many of our print mastheads were challenged, and the double impact of COVID-19 and the tech platforms not remunerating the local publisher whose content they profit from, has, unfortunately, made them unsustainable publications,” he added.

In addition, BuzzFeed announced on 14 May that it would be closing its United Kingdom and Australian news operations to focus on its US operations. Earlier this year the Australian Associated Press, a newswire which was part-owned by News Corp, announced its closure after 85 years.

Sourced from BBC, NewsMediaWorks, Business Insider, The Guardian