Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Average print circ fell 7% at top dailies

Contrary to reports celebrating an increase in newspaper circulation in the latest six-month reporting period, the weekday sales of the print editions at the nation’s 25 largest dailies actually fell by an average of 7.3%.
Not a single one of the nation’s 25 largest newspapers gained weekday print circulation in the reporting period that ended in March.
As illustrated below, the average weekday circulation declines ranged from a modest -0.4% at the San Diego Union-Tribune to -16.0% at the New York Daily News. 
Other publications shedding print circulation at double-digit rates include the New York Post (-15.5%), the Chicago Sun-Times (-12.1%), the Los Angeles Times (-12.0%) and the Denver Post (-10.9%).
The circulation statistics are from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an industry-owned service organized to provide third-party verification of newspaper sales.
In reporting the circulation data for the six-month period ended in March, the ABC said average weekday circulation at 618 surveyed newspapers advanced by nearly 0.7%. 
The ABC also published a list showing that the combined print and digital circulation of the 25 largest newspapers rose by an average 7.7% on weekdays. The list did not include year-to-year comparisons for print circulation, so I looked up the numbers on the ABC website and plugged them into a spreadsheet. 
You can see how well newspapers are managing the digital transition by comparing the print circulation losses in the far right column of the table below with the combined print-plus-digital gains in the column immediately adjacent to it.
While  publishers like the New York Times and Orange County Register seem to be making headway in shifting the emphasis of their business to digital products, fully 10 of the 25 biggest newspapers suffered year-to-year declines in not only in print readership but also in print-plus-digital circulation.

Correction:  Owing to a data transcription error on my part, the original version of this post overstated the circulation drop at the Orange County Register. This article and the table have been updated to reflect the correct information.    

   


4 Comments:

Blogger Martin Langeveld said...

Your calc of 7.3% at the top 25 is actually better than the industry average, which I calculated at -9.46% in a comment at Poynter the other day, as follows:

It is possible to dissect the numbers and figure out how much print is down. Here's the math: If you take last year's combined level as being 100, we are now at 100.68. Last year, digital was 8.66% of that, so print was 91.34. Now, digital is 14.2% of the total of 100.68, so print is 85.8% of 100.68, or 86.38. Print has declined from 91.34 to 86.38, which is a drop of 9.46 percent. (I predicted it would down 7% in December at NiemanLab, and 10% in the Sept. 30 period. Now it looks like the September print drop could be 15%.) I believe that tablets, most specifically the iPad, is a big reason for this drop — the experience of reading news on a tablet, once you get used to it, is so much better than what it is in print that print circulation for both newspapers and magazines is likely to fall off the cliff over the next 2-3 years as tablets reach household saturation levels of 80% or more (from about 30% currently). This accelerates the need to find digital revenue to replace print and shortens the timeframe most publishers believe they have to accomplish that.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

One way that the San Jose Mercury News inflates their print numbers is to continue to deliver the paper even after you cancel your subscription. I canceled over a year ago, yet continue to receive the paper every day.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Starry Night Astrology said...

One of the ways to inflate the Sunday number that was approved by ABC is to include the Saturday single copy circulation numbers into Sunday. All you need to do is put Sunday's date on a Saturday newspaper, and viola you have a "bulldog" edition. While I don't have access to ABC reports anymore (out of the business) I suspect this is the source of the "weekend" increase, while the daily number quite rightly shows the state of actual hard copy circ.

@Mike--Its doubtful your daily paper is being counted in the circ numbers. Once your subscription and the grace period ended the circulation system would delete the ended subscription from the Press Order. Most likely the reason your subscription continues is that the carrier missed the stop order and is just in the habit of delivering your paper. Enjoy your free newspaper because eventually some district manager will have to deliver that route and discover the error. (Just saying from my years of experience in field management.)

1:18 PM  
Blogger Starry Night Astrology said...

One of the ways to inflate the Sunday number that was approved by ABC is to include the Saturday single copy circulation numbers into Sunday. All you need to do is put Sunday's date on a Saturday newspaper, and viola you have a "bulldog" edition. While I don't have access to ABC reports anymore (out of the business) I suspect this is the source of the "weekend" increase, while the daily number quite rightly shows the state of actual hard copy circ.

@Mike--Its doubtful your daily paper is being counted in the circ numbers. Once your subscription and the grace period ended the circulation system would delete the ended subscription from the Press Order. Most likely the reason your subscription continues is that the carrier missed the stop order and is just in the habit of delivering your paper. Enjoy your free newspaper because eventually some district manager will have to deliver that route and discover the error. (Just saying from my years of experience in field management.)

1:26 PM  

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