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NST now a kids’ paper, sells below 90,000

Mon 2010-Sep-13 @ MYT 06:15:14 am

Now it’s official: New Straits Times circulation has dropped to just above 80,000 copies a day in sales to the buying public two years running. The official daily circulation figure remains above 100,000 but a quarter of that figure comes from bulk sales.

The decline of the NST has long been the subject of public debate, but the Audit Bureau of Circulation report for 2009 makes it beyond doubt: ABC now includes a breakdown of the bulk sales component.

Regular blog commenter nstman will be pleased. The ABC figures bear out his comment last year that NST had fallen well below 90,000.

Bulk sales at wholesale price — minus the news vendors’ commission of as much as 40% (split between the distributor and the news agent) — are made mostly to companies who sponsor copies of the New Straits Times to be distributed free to school children, or sold to schools at wholesale price for school children, or to institutions such as hotels which provide a copy of the newspaper in guest rooms.

The NST is thus riding on a big chunk of charity — a lot of the bulk sales go to government companies like CIMB bank and Telekom and politicians who give copies of the NST to be used as English-language teaching aids in schools.

Bulk sales are more important to the NST than to any other newspaper.

NST management will probably see the figures as vindication of their marketing strategy and their big Spelling Contest, to push into schools and catch future readers at a young age.

But what it means in practical terms is that one in five NST readers is really a kid. Now the real test will come in a couple of years when those kids who grew up with the NST in the classroom go out to work. Will they still remember the NST fondly? Or will they remember it as part of the torture they went through in school and thus switch to the Sun (it’s also free) or the breezy Metro for a change?

A question that looms ever bigger as the days of lost sales continue.

With so many kids as readers, shouldn’t the Advertising Department go back to chasing for Cadbury, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Bata ads instead of Mercedes-Benz and Louis Vuitton?

The doyen of media buyers, Margaret Lim, told Malaysian Insider last week that circulation figures are not the sole determinant when advertisers decide on buying space. Maybe she was trying to put a bright face on the figures or cheer up Balai Berita — except for the fact that they still remain largely reliant on the charity of big GLCs and on a raft of supplements.

Main papers all lose sales


Source: ABC Report 2009. (Please excuse the sloppiness of the graphic)

Harian Metro with its sensational “hot” scoops and thoroughly down-market approach is making sensational gains, streaking ahead of the pack, with its Utusan group competitor Kosmo well in the running.

Of the main papers, only Sin Chew made headway while the NST, Star, Berita Harian and Utusan all lost sales. (Nanyang Siang Pau figures were not reported. I didn’t take into account The Sun, which gives away about 3000,000 copies a day.)

The chart above gives the figures up to July 2009.

The end-of-year table on the right shows that the two main Bahasa Malaysia papers suffered major losses: the Berita Harian dropped by 40,000 from 2008 and the Utusan by 20,000 copies a day. There was further attrition of the NST and Star.

These losses will give cheer to the vocal crowd of newspaper critics.

The circulation figures might be of concern for what they imply for the future of newspapers, but at Balai Berita there is much cheerfulness nonetheless. Bigger bonuses have been paid and more largesse promised, on the back of better-than-expected advertising sales. That might be surprising, given the losses in circulation — but the synergies of now being part of the bigger Media Prima empire are flowing through.

What that means is that TV3 and the other television stations are propping up the newspaper business. The bonuses are coming courtesy of Television House, and not from Putrajaya.

Better start praying in the right direction.

© 2010 uppercaise

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13 Comments
  1. nstman permalink
    Mon 2010-Sep-13 @ MYT 13:20:05 pm 13:20

    Without the help of kids, I am afraid NST has turned into a mosquito paper, the very epithet this once grand old dame used to describe the Star when it sold less than 100,000 in the eighties. I think the audit bureau of circulation was being too kind to the NST. If I am not mistaken, the 80,000 sales figure includes forced sales, meaning papers delivered to government departments which can reach 10,000. Be that as it may, the precipitous downward trajectory of NST’s circulation is set to continue. I wont be surprised if circulation figures go down to 50,000 in a few years time. No wonder Media Prima has decided to take the paper out of the stock market to spare the company the blushes. The evisceration of a once-proud paper is a grim reflection of opacity, cronyism and racism. I hope Kadir Jasin and Ahmad A. Talib, the heavenly kings of journalism, reads this first class piece by Uppercaise.

  2. AnakMalaysia Lama permalink
    Mon 2010-Sep-13 @ MYT 16:59:10 pm 16:59

    I used to work at Star in the seventies for RM100/month and dreaming of working for NST. The once superb newspaper was turned into umno mouthpiece and promoting govt policies by cronies.

    They should shut this piece of shit down

    I don’t shed a tear.

  3. Mon 2010-Sep-13 @ MYT 18:20:02 pm 18:20

    I have been subscribing to NST for the past 30 years but for the last couple of months I see there are no news merit to be read. Very dry and nothing much to read. Interesting articles are no more interesting. Even the KLSE daily counter listing are missing. Don’t they realise that most of the time we carry the business section to read whenever have time could be anywhere.
    Guess all our English Educated editors have all retire. No one write like people from those days. No politics only muhibbah news.

    As the price for the Stars the same price. I have switch to Stars as there are more to read..

  4. vasantha permalink
    Mon 2010-Sep-13 @ MYT 19:37:46 pm 19:37

    Looks like we are seeing the demise of a once great paper. Once upon a time, my day would not have been complete without reading the NST. Two years ago, I gave up on the grand old lady of the media world when I realised that I was missing out a lot by clinging on to this paper. It was a nostalgic farewell because I could see my siblings and I as very young people waiting in line to read it after APPA.

  5. nstman permalink
    Mon 2010-Sep-13 @ MYT 19:46:12 pm 19:46

    In the seventies, it was every wannabe journalist’s dream to get into the NST, THE paper. Failure to work for THE paper was like a dream unfulfilled. I was among the thousands who dreamed of working the THE paper. I finally realised my dream. Believe me, it was the greatest regret of my life. I believe I speak for the thousands whose dreams crashed. What do you expect when you have sub-literate clowns like Kadir A. Jasin and Ahmad A. Talib ruling the roost. They not only destroyed journalism, but they turned the profession into a living hell. God help us. In the meantime, stop praying for THE paper, because nothing can bring humpty dumpty back again.

  6. kalaimani permalink
    Mon 2010-Sep-13 @ MYT 23:18:34 pm 23:18

    whatever UMNo touches , it turns to ashes. it is the case with NST and malaysias treasury.

    and we have to slog tp pay the debts accumulated and squirreled away by corrupt umno and BN politicians. one wonders how do they sleep at night.
    UMNo never respected the blood and sweat of malaysian workers and never will.

    lets kick out umno in the next elections.

    enough is enough 53 years is too long.

  7. percolator permalink
    Tue 2010-Sep-14 @ MYT 00:43:24 am 00:43

    ahh.. those bygone days, when if your client’s product/service was premium, a market leader or had any such aspirations, NST was a must in the media plan for its reach and coverage, its authoritativeness, its credibility and prestige. Despite the stiff rates, you couldn’t deliver a national and respectable print launch without NST.

    Today, all NST really has is the dysphemistic ‘goodwill’.

    • uppercaise permalink*
      Tue 2010-Sep-14 @ MYT 19:08:20 pm 19:08

      Not much of the latter left in stock, I would think.

  8. nicolee permalink
    Tue 2010-Sep-14 @ MYT 01:26:43 am 01:26

    who’s that guy who took over as top editor. think he’s shorty …ah yes, Mr Z (not zorro) and i was told he wanted to make NST great as a newspaper and surrounded himself with a-lickers. Hey, what’s happening to this sheet you are publishing!! Ah yes, it has become another Malay institution.

  9. percolator permalink
    Wed 2010-Sep-15 @ MYT 01:41:51 am 01:41

    For any media planner striving to deliver efficient and effective plans within budget, there is nothing more annoying and frustrating than requests to accommodate obligatory ‘goodwill insertions’ for PR reasons or client’s political affiliations.

    • Wed 2010-Sep-15 @ MYT 10:49:08 am 10:49

      Ah, you meant the political blackmail. They don’t have much else to go on.

  10. John John permalink
    Wed 2010-Sep-15 @ MYT 06:24:41 am 06:24

    My prediction, made in 1993, was that the Nst will eventually drop to 50,000 copies a day and confined to the English reading public. Half of these will come from bulk sales to school kids for the Newspaper in Education and SIR (Spell it Right). Being Umno-owned, Nst will continue to extort and blackmail Petronas, the banks and GLCs, among others, for ads and sponsorships.

    The Star is a lousy paper as well. In fact, between the Star and the Nst, the latter is a better read if we discount the political bullshit. Politics is not everything in a newspaper but the Nst is defintely being punished for its political slant. It’s pushing the ketuanan Melayu bullshit and expects non-Malays to buy the paper while denying them jobs, and if employed, promotions.

    The Nst needs to get away from its race-based recruitment policies which have cost it the goodwill of readers and vendors alike. These were stepped up when Kadir Jasin became Group Editor of the Nst and subsequently Chief Group Editor of the Nst Group, a post he created for himself.

    That clown Kalimullah Hassan, an Urdu-speaking Patani Tamil Muslim (descendents of Pathan men and Tamil women in Tamil Nadu), further stepped up the damage to Nst. He was only a reporter in the Star who went on to become a rewrite man at the Nst. He left to become Ghaffar Baba’s press secretary, was kicked out after three months upon the recomendation of the SB, and then joined the S’pore Straits Times in KL. By this time, he was rubbing shoulders with Badawi & Family and the money began pouring in for him. The rest is even more history.

    Mahathir hates Kalimullah because he sees his kind as trying to take a share of the cake which he wants for his Kakas (Malayalee Muslims) only.

  11. Wed 2010-Sep-15 @ MYT 10:22:28 am 10:22

    Funny thing is, most English-language newspapers do try to cater to the English-reading public. They can’t help it, it’s part of the culture. Also the market for non-English-readers is a tough one to crack. And another thing, it’s funny how much disdain people show for reporters. Even reporters don’t want to be known as reporters. Everyone’s a “writer” these days. If only…

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