News Limited’s newspapers achieved a new readership record of 10.06m, topping 10m a week for the first time since the current surveys were introduced since 1983.
The improved results also show that newspaper readership is growing at the same time that audiences for free to air television and commercial radio continue to decline.
Additionally, visitors to newspaper websites also grew strongly over the past 12 months, demonstrating that the overall market for newspaper content appears to be increasing markedly as more people access their news and information in print, on-line or both.
News Limited chairman and chief executive, John Hartigan says the results reinforce the recovery evident in readership in the year to December 2005.
“More than ever, these results show that newspapers work better than any other medium to reach the largest number of consumers and are extending their lead over television and radio. The results again dispel the myth that newspaper readers are replacing print with visits to websites,” says Hartigan.
Total newspaper readership in the five mainland capitals Monday to Sunday is now 7.67m, almost 800,000 people ahead of the 6.87m people that watched commercial free to air television over the same period.
Moreover, the gap is widening with readership steady or growing over the past four-five years while television audiences have declined across all age groups.
The comparison between newspaper readership and radio audiences is similar with the total readership Monday to Sunday now more than 4.3 times larger than the total weekly radio audience in the five mainland capital cities.
News Limited circulation director, Mark Webster, says the rapid growth in visitors to newspaper websites was extending the reach of newspaper content to new audiences and providing a richer experience for regular readers.
“Most of our metropolitan newspaper websites generated strong double digit growth in unique visitors. Our main site, NEWS.com.au attracted more than 1.2m unique visitors in the year to March 2006.
“Regular readers still love newspapers but are also accessing the websites. At the same time, we are attracting new readers, particularly among younger age groups. This shows the reach of our mastheads is growing and that on-line traffic is not simply cannibalising traditional readership,” adds Webster.
The newspaper only readership results from the latest Roy Morgan survey included:
• strong growth in NSW where there was a 2.1 per cent rise for The Daily Telegraph Monday to Friday and a 6.3 per cent increase on Saturday
• slightly weaker results in Victoria following numerous quarters of record growth with total sales across all days of the week lower than a year ago
• further strong growth in Queensland, particularly in regional areas where on Monday to Friday The Gold Coast Bulletin was up 7.4 per cent, The Townsville Bulletin up 9.5 per cent and The Cairns Post was 6.1 per cent higher
• strong growth in Tasmania where The Mercury was up 6.5 per cent Monday to Friday and four per cent on Saturday
• a strong recovery for The Australian which, while down 2.6 per cent Monday to Friday and 0.5 per cent on weekends for the year, delivered a 4.6 per cent increase in the latest quarter Monday to Friday and a 2.1 per cent rebound on weekends, and
• a modest decline in readership across the country on Sundays from the high levels of a year ago
As with past surveys, a number of the readership results are at odds with the rises in circulation and News Limited has queried various anomalies with Roy Morgan Research and is awaiting a response.
Webster says overall the results were encouraging and that further growth is expected over the next 12 months.
“Eight of the 10 best performing newspapers belong to News Limited and in Sydney we have been particularly pleased with the resurgence by The Daily Telegraph.
“Elsewhere, Monday to Friday readership remains challenging and the modest declines around the country on Sundays need to be seen in the context of the previous highs after extended periods of very strong growth,” says Webster.