Total readership of The Canberra Times surged dramatically to almost 2.3 million in March as audiences turned to canberratimes.com.au for breaking news on the growing national COVID-19 emergency following rolling coverage of summer's deadly bushfires on the NSW South Coast.
The audience surge helped drive the combined network audience of publisher ACM to 8.4 million readers across print and digital for the month of March - an increase of 35 per cent year on year.
As social distancing lockdowns came into effect around the country to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, readers turned to ACM's newspapers and local news sites for regular updates and analysis.
According to the latest media industry readership figures released this week for March 2020, The Canberra Times reached a total of 2.29 million print and digital readers for the month.
The total cross-platform audience was up by a dramatic 180 per cent from March 2019, and up 101 per cent from the previous January-December 2019 survey period.
Online, the unique audience at canberratimes.com.au peaked at 2.3 million for the month of March, up 196 per cent year on year and up 110 per cent from February 2020, with March page views peaking at 10.9 million, an increase of 89 per cent from February.
The surge in online audiences more than offset a three per cent decline in average print readership to 149,246 for March.
The Canberra Times introduced subscriptions for online access in June 2019, but together with other ACM publications has made coverage of essential news and information about coronavirus freely accessible to all website visitors.
ACM is Australia's largest independent media company and publishes 13 other daily newspapers and subscription news sites serving key regional population centres in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania plus 150 other news outlets in every state and territory.
Online readership across the ACM network for March reached 5.9 million while print audiences stood at 4.1 million, for a combined total of 8.4 million - up 11 per cent from the previous survey period (Jan-Dec 2019).
With social distancing restrictions coming into effect and more people sheltering at home, the total monthly print audience for ACM publications held solidly in March compared to the previous survey period, down only 0.5 per cent.
Year on year, newspaper reading across ACM titles in March grew by 27 per cent.
Online, excluding The Canberra Times, the ACM network's unique audience in March was up by 42 per cent year on year.
The latest EMMA (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) readership figures released this week by industry group NewsMediaWorks showed Australian news media brands delivered record audiences of 18.2 million over the 12 months to the end of March, reaching more than nine out of 10 Australians (96 per cent) - the highest since the creation of EMMA in 2013.
Across measured digital platforms, news media reached 17.2 million Australians, representing 91 per cent of the population aged 14+, up 10 per cent compared to the previous period (December 2019).
Despite the pandemic, print audiences continued to reach 12.7 million, or two in three Australians (67 per cent).
In April ACM temporarily suspended the operations of four press sites and the printing of a number of non-daily newspapers until June 29, saying the economic impact of COVID-19 control measures on advertising revenues had left it with "no choice".