Newspaper audience maintains record high

The total newspaper audience remains at its highest level yet for the second consecutive month, according to the latest data from emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia).

Newspaper media continues to reach 16.4 million people, or 93 per cent of the Australian population aged 14 and over, across print and digital platforms each month. The figure, for the 12 months to April 2014, is equal to last month’s emma data and remains the highest level recorded since emma measurement launched in August 2013.

While digital retained the stronger growth, print journalism continued to reach 83 per cent or 14.7 million Australians from all walks of life, The Newspaper Works CEO Mark Hollands said.

“They may be keeping up with the major issues of the day via national or metropolitan newspapers, or staying in touch with what is happening where they live via regional or community newspapers.”

Leading the charge was Fairfax Media’s The Sydney Morning Herald with 5.4 million readers followed by News Corp’s Herald Sun with 4.3 million and Daily Telegraph (4.2m). The three titles reached 31, 25 and 24 per cent of the population respectively each month.

According to April’s Nielsen Online Ratings, smh.com.au rose to the top of the rankings with a unique audience of 3,841,000, ahead of news.com.au with a UA of 3,643,000. New entrants including the Daily Mail Australia and The Guardian continued to grow, reaching sixth and ninth place respectively.

Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir described the market as “the most competitive I’ve been involved in in 30 years of journalism,” even compared to the print wars of the 1980s.

“Barriers to entering the media are virtually non-existent these days. There are myriad new competitors, as well as non-traditional competitors like anything with a screen – PlayStation, television – I view anything like that as something to pay attention to in terms of reaching audience.”

He credited much of the paper’s success to its delivery of hard news journalism in the wake of the Federal Budget, but said reaching an audience was a multi-faceted exercise.

“The journalism is the start and the most important building block,” Mr Goodsir said, “but then it comes to how we try and reach that audience.

“[The journalism is] augmented by endeavours in the search and social spheres as more and more people find our news in places other than the homepage.”

Some of Fairfax’s stand-alone websites such as Essential Baby and Daily Life were already getting “very, very high audience numbers from share, probably about 70 per cent”, he said, comparable to figures from international websites like The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed attained through “non-traditional” ways of reaching an audience.

“We see it as a massive area for growth, and we’re supporting that with a greater and greater social media team,” he said.

Smh.com.au introduced a metered subscription model last year, and is the only paid site in the top six Nielsen rankings.

Sydney Morning Herald online editor Conal Hanna says it doesn’t make sense to have a hard paywall in a world where there is much fluctuating traffic.

The metered model, however, “draws on the best of both worlds, in that we can very much be a part of the digital conversation, but we can also be leveraging our loyal readers to help us make money and survive and thrive in the digital era”.

Also thriving  is APN’s Sunshine Coast Daily, which posted a 24 per cent audience increase driven by a solid 61 per cent rise in its monthly digital audience, making up for an 0.6 per cent decline in monthly print readership.

Western Australia, meanwhile, continued its strong results in print with a 1.1 per cent rise in monthly audience for the Sunday Times and a 0.2 per cent increase for the West Australian.

For more news from The Newspaper Works, click here.

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