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Readership, circulation face off as latest media stats released

Magazine and newspaper readership is holding more or less steady – but circulation numbers are a different kettle of fish entirely.

It’s that time again, a time when publishers weep, gloat or possibly just say ‘meh’ and get on with it as the ABC circulation and Nielsen’s Magazine Comparatives Q2 2010 – Q2 2011 readership results are released.

Wwhile the market appears to have stabilised after a fairly rough period, there are some interesting, some might say counter-intuitive trends on display in the yearly comparisons, with some significant disparities between circulation and readership for some titles and publishers. If you’re looking for standouts in the circulation department then Fairfax Magazines’ Life and Leisure took the cake, with a 16 percent increase from the same time last year.

At ACP, which, slightly surprisingly, was the only magazine publisher to send a press release, Your Home and Garden and Australian Woman’s Weekly were both up 1.3 percent, Fashion Quarterly and Cleo were up four percent (FQ is up 17.1 percent over the past two years), and Taste was up slightly. But some of its major titles were a different story, with Next down 15 percent, North & South down 11 percent and Metro down 10 percent. Woman’s Day consolidated its position as the highest selling weekly magazine with a circulation of 106,000 but this was down three percent from last year.

NZ Magazines recorded a couple of wins, with The Listener (64,000) and NZ Women’s Weekly (82,000) both up two percent. But one notable trend is New Idea and That’s Life, the two titles that moved into its stable from Pacific Magazines last year, are down ten percent and six percent respectively.

Tangible’s NZ Fishing World and NZ Rugby World both increased circ by eight percent and seven percent respectively and takes the gong for the single biggest gain of 26 percent for it customer published title Habitat, now at over 200,000 audited circulation.

Elsewhere, the previous big rises of Healthy Food Guide and Mindfood have slowed down as those two titles mature.

In many cases, however, the readership was a totally different kettle of fish, which some put down to the fact that readership generally follows circulation figures, so if circ goes up or down, readership figures take a bit longer to respond. Readership is certainly a good way to show how big your audience is, while circulation is a good measure to see which publishers are creating content consumers will actually pay for. But which metric is more valuable/accurate? And if circulation is, by and large, going down, and readership is, by and large, holding up or increasing, does that simply mean more people are passing on their mags or reading them in fish'n'chip shops?

These figures are something of a helicopter view of the industry, of course, but at ACP, the country’s biggest publisher, some mags that had substantial circ losses clocked readership increases with North and South up four percent and Metro up seven percent. KiaOra, which doesn’t have circ figures, was up 21 percent, warranting a ‘significant’ in Nielsen’s right hand panel.

Perhaps not surprisingly, ACP has been focusing on readership lately and, as its press release said: “ACP’s magazine portfolio connects with more New Zealanders than ever before (81.1 percent). ACP Media reaches more than three million New Zealanders a year, an increase of 3.3 percent or 97,000 readers … Four of the top six increases in audiences across the magazine market were held by ACP brands and three in four of the fastest growing magazines belong to ACP. ACP’s magazines combined have increased net readership by females 25-59 years socio-economic levels 1-3 by +10.8 percent year on year while males 25-54 years were up +5.5 percent.”

In the weekly readership stakes, NZ Woman’s Weekly stood firm with just over 800,000 readers to take top spot, followed by Woman’s Day, which declined slightly from 801,000 last year to 781,000. NZ Magazines’ The Listener backed up its circ increase with an increase of almost 30,000 readers, while ACP’s Lucky Break, which was down five percent in circulation, was up 23 percent in readership. NZ Rugby World and NZ Fishing World were the opposite, with readership decreases despite their circulation increases.

ACP’s monthly The Australian Women’s Weekly clocked a readership of 664,000, up five percent year on year and its fifth consecutive gain. And its newest magazine, Good Health, got off to a good debut, with its first 12-month readership at 108,000 and a circulation of 15,352.

The food category continues to be one of the fastest growing in the publishing sector, and Healthy Food Guide continued along a now well-trodden readership path, moving from 325,000 to 358,000 readers. Foodtown is up from 296,000 to 342,000, Taste now has 218,000 readers, up 20 percent or 36,000 and Recipes+ secured 103,000 readers, up 16 percent.

Decreases deemed significant by the Nielsen figures were recorded by Skywatch, NZ Fishing World, Reader’s Digest, NZ Girlfriend, Cosmopolitan and ComputerWorld.

Publishers up the reach, but still hunting for missing moolah

Newspaper readership remained relatively stable in the latest Nielsen reports and the overall trend for circulation continued downwards. And while the online and mobile properties of the two big publishers are continuing to lure Kiwi eyeballs, recent financial results show the digital dimes still aren’t replacing the lost analog dollars. 

Just two titles were able to trumpet circulation rises in this round. The Herald on Sunday was the major exception to the ‘End is Nigh for Print’ rule, boosting its circulation to 98,042 15 +, up from 95,762 at the same time last year and from 92,315 in 2009. The Herald also held firm with a very small increase, up to 170,704, but it was enough to claim the trophy as the only metropolitan daily newspaper to increase circulation for the period.

There’s not much to write home about in circulation, but reachis another matter.

The Herald’s weekly brand audience across print and online grew by 48,000 to reach 1,283,000, with a typical daily readership of 779,000 engaging with the Herald in print or online. The print edition recorded an average readership of 586,000, more than twice as many as any other metropolitan newspaper.

The Weekend Herald recorded a readership of 640,000, nearly 100,000 more readers than any other weekend newspaper in New Zealand. The Sunday Star-Times is still New Zealand’s most read Sunday newspaper, growing by 8,000 readers with a reach of 542,000. But the Herald on Sunday dominates up north, with a readership of 352,000, 70,000 more than the Sunday Star-Times and more than twice as many readers than the Sunday News.

Over at Fairfax, it says 85 percent of New Zealanders, or over 2.9 million, are reached by its media brands every day.

The Waikato Times was the only metropolitan to chart a significant decrease but The Press increased its national reach by seven percent, reaching 238,000 (up 15,000) and the Dominion Post increased by three percent period on period, reaching 231,000 (up 6,000).

“I’m especially proud of the work and results our Christchurch Press team delivered through a very challenging time,” says Fairfax chief cheese Allen Williams. “The Press provided breaking news throughout the Christchurch earthquakes, firmly entrenching its performance in the region and receiving strong support amongst its community audience …

“I hear a lot about the ‘end of print’ and the survey results demonstrate that it’s simply not true in New Zealand as yet.”

But it’s the digital realm the publishers seem most excited about. And for good reason. nzherald.co.nz attracted a monthly total of 1,775,000 visitors or 64 percent of the total online audience, unique browsers increased by 32 percent over the 12 months ending June 2011 and, perhaps as a sign of things to come, monthly unique browsers on its mobile site increased by 403 percent (its iPad and iPhone/Android apps have had around 100,000 downloads since launch).

“These are exciting times for any media organisation and the Herald provides an excellent case study of how quality, award winning content packaged and delivered through multi-media channels can grow audience numbers and provide dynamic new ways for advertisers to engage with New Zealanders,” says Martin Simons, chief executive of APN’s New Zealand media business.

Stuff.co.nz is the third most visited site in New Zealand behind TradeMe and Yahoo, with a domestic monthly audience of 3.4 million unique browsers, up 49 percent.

Readership aside, the two big publishers are still trying to adapt to These Difficult Times. Fairfax is cutting costs/jobs in Australia and had its ratings outlook lowered recently, while APN said a combination of tough print advertising conditions, the Christchurch earthquake and the weak New Zealand economy led to a $A98.3 million loss in the six months ending 30 June. This included a AU$156 million impairment charge on a 20 percent writedown in the value of its New Zealand metropolitan print assets.

APN’s print media in New Zealand and Australia reported revenue declines of four percent, while ebitda declined 36 percent and 39 percent respectively. Elsewhere in the business, the radio sector remained steady, while outdoor continued to rise with revenue growth of 11 percent.