Regional readership and the unmentioned double-digit audience losses

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It wouldn't have taken a Roy Morgan readership survey to tell News Corp's strength in regional Australia is in Queensland, while that of Australian Community Media is in NSW and ACT.

However, while the figures put meat on the mastheads' respective readership, they do not amount to a list of what might have exchanged hands last week.

Or - if you listen to the opinion poll company's chief executive, Michele Levine, says - might in the future.

News pulled out of a sale of its regional titles to Australian Community Media a week ago. Devine reckons the two businesses would dominate the country's regional newspaper market.

"If News Corp and Australian Community Media combined the merged entity would control the largest newspaper in 19 of the 20 largest regional newspaper markets," she says.

While merger talks have been called off "for the time being", she says the potential of combining Australia's largest regional newspaper groups "will continue to be a discussion point" as the traditional Australian media industry consolidates to confront an increasingly digital future."

News Corp's leading regional titles include the Gold Coast Bulletin with a four week print readership of 215,000, the Hobart Mercury read by 171,000, the Townsville Bulletin read by 129,000, the Geelong Advertiser read by 127,000, the Cairns Post read by 115,000 and the Northern Territory News read by 56,000, though it was not clear whether all of these would have been included in a sale.

Australian Community Media's titles include the Newcastle Herald with a four week print readership of 246,000, the Illawarra Mercury read by 154,000, the Canberra Times read by 151,000, the Launceston Examiner read by 102,000 and the (Burnie) Advocate read by 61,000.

Roy Morgan figures show ACM's The Examiner increased its weekday average issue print readership by 14.3 per cent to 32,000. News' top-selling regional dailies in the Gold Coast, Hobart, Townsville, Geelong, Cairns and Darwin (by readership) all lost readers in the year to March 2020 (by comparison with the same period of 2019) by between 7.7 per cent and 38.5 per cent.

At ACM, readership of the Newcastle Herald, Illawarra Mercury, Canberra Times, (Launceston) Examiner and (Burnie) Advocate fell between 12.5-24.0 per cent.

Enhanced cross-platform audience of the Canberra Times topped more than a million in the three months of the March quarter 2020, its 1,052,000 comparing to News (Hobart) Mercury on 429,000 and ACM's Newcastle Herald on 380,000.

Pictured: Enhanced cross-platform audience of ACM flagship's Canberra Times reached 1,052,000

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