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