The latest data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) Malaysia showed that The Star and Sunday Star’s average daily circulation grew from the second half of last year to the first half of 2014 (see table).
Only one other national newspaper audited by ABC, Berita Harian, also saw sales growth during the period. The Malay Mail is not audited.
Some regional newspapers, such as The Borneo Post (Sabah) and Utusan Borneo (Sarawak), also recorded growth in print circulation.
Excluding Makkal Osai, which did not submit its circulation figures for January-June 2014, the ABC-audited national dailies saw a combined 3.3% drop in print circulation.
That translated to slightly over 117,000 copies.
The Bahasa segment was hit hardest in terms of both absolute volume and percentage drop, despite the increase in Berita Harian’s circulation.
The combined print circulation of national Bahasa dailies fell by nearly 5%, or 91,695 copies.
Metro Ahad and Harian Metro suffered the biggest plunge in circulation, each falling by about 30,000 copies.
All the national Chinese newspapers saw declines in circulation with the number for this segment reducing by 10,942 to 802,382 copies.
China Press saw a decrease of 1,302 copies in the first half this year compared to the six-month period of July and December last year while Sin Chew Daily, the largest circulated newspapers in the segment, saw a decrease of 1,093 copies.
Almost all of the ABC-audited newspaper digital replicas posted an increase in circulation.
Digital circulation of all titles, excluding Utusan Malaysia and Mingguan Malaysia, jumped 60% to 204,302. (The figures that Utusan submitted are still being verified.)
The highest digital circulation growth came from The Star and Sunday Star’s ePaper, which added 64% each to hit 81,367 and 81,498 copies respectively.
Digital replicas’ circulation growth did not totally offset the print circulation drop of 117,328. However, it should be noted that ABC currently does not audit traffic to newspaper websites, where many print readers may have also migrated to.
ABC chairman Karthi Palanisamy said in a statement: “It is grossly incorrect to presume a weakening in newspaper circulation when the same publishers have grown digital news audience here.
“Circulation and reach of newspapers must be viewed within this often overlooked but vital context.”
He noted that there had been an increase in interest among ABC board members to combine the print and digital figures as a marketing strategy. However, the board is still deliberating on it.
Meanwhile, ABC vice-chairman and audit committee chairman Fan Chen Yip said ABC newspaper members in the peninsula were making great strides in reporting digital replica copies.
He said it was a good sign to see the increasing number of members submitting details of their digital replicas.
He expected newspapers to continue to be a very important advertising medium, as publishers moved to a much more engaging and cost-effective format.