My suspicion is that both News and Fairfax have overseen a process where newspaper circulation figures have been allowed to remain artificially high, and they have resisted measures that would better audit these figures.
It is notable, for instance, that the State of the News Print Media studies undertaken by the Australian Press Council ceased in 2009 as News and Fairfax withdrew funding for them, and the APC staff member who oversaw their production was dismissed.
When you read the OECD study, it is striking how poor the data is for Australia compared to their countries, which is at odds with the general quality of Australian statistics. Unlike 20 other countries, for instance, Australia could not provide a suitable figure on the breakdown between advertising revenue and copy sales as percentages of total newspaper revenue.
As if on cue, The Australian‘s story on reactions to the sackings at Fairfax contained this quote:
Chris Mitchell, editor-in-chief of The Australian, said it was wrong to suggest Fairfax’s problems signalled the end of newspapers. “The comments from Smith highlight the myopic nature of some Fairfax editors,” he said. “In his own city, the Herald Sun is still selling over 470,000 copies a day, so there is clearly a role for mass circulation newspapers.”
This would mean that about one in six adult Melbournians are buying the Herald Sun as a print newspaper on a daily basis. I would suggest that this is a complete fantasy, and it would be of concern if anyone at the higher levels of decision making at News believed such a figure.