Utusan has been very much in the news for its sensationalist and racially tinged reporting. Less well known is the fact that the paper’s circulation has been sliding over the last four years.
According to Audit Bureau of Circulation (figures for West Malaysia publications for the period ending 31 December 2009), Utusan Malaysia’s daily circulation has dropped 21 per cent from 213,445 in 2006 to 169,548 in 2009. The group revenue of Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd fell correspondingly from RM384m in 2006 to RM349m in 2009, according to Utusan’s Annual Report for 2009. This had an impact on its bottom line as well, as profit before tax plunged from RM21m to RM7m in the last four years. The firm’s performance was saved by sister publication Kosmo!’s steady rise in circulation from 100,798 in 2007 to 172,253 in 2009.
Berita Harian too fell from a circulation of 203,704 in 2006 to 154,868 in 2009 – a fall of 24 per cent. But the circulation of sister paper Harian Metro, like that of Kosmo!, jumped from 249,575 to 358,676 in the same period.
Mainstream English-language papers have not been spared the gloomy figures. The Star’s circulation has fallen from 310,008 in 2006 to 286,857 in 2009. Likewise, New Straits Times sales have slumped from 139,468 to 111,158 in the last four years.
Free newspaper theSun bucked the trend, its circulation soaring from 174,179 in 2006 to 300,587 in 2009.
Chinese-language newspapers generally did all right, Sin Chew‘s, China Press’ and Oriental Daily News’ circulations all rising over the same period. Only Guang Ming recorded a small drop in circulation.
The top selling daily newspapers are Sin Chew (382,000), followed by Harian Metro (359,000) and The Star (287,000). The best-selling weekend editions are Metro Ahad (406,000) and Mingguan Malaysia (370,000), along with Sin Chew.
All the above figures are based on ABC West Malaysia publications figures only. Figures for Sarawak and Sabah are reported separately.
From the recent trend, it appears that the future of blatantly pro-BN newspapers that are perceived to be sycophantic does not look encouraging as readers shift towards online news sources.
The only papers that seem to be coping well with this shift are the gossip or life-style tabloids, a free newspaper that is a bit more independent (theSun), a business paper like The Edge (circulation of around 21,000-25,000), and the slightly more independent Chinese-language newspapers.
What do you think?