Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Landing a Sunday Punch

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Landing a Sunday Punch

Article excerpt

As newspaper circulation continues to slip, publishers keep searching for creative ways to make the numbers turn out in their favor. The Hartford (Conn.) Courant is one such paper that found gold in an otherwise quiet day, but one of its competitors is crying foul.

Since September 2005, the Courant has managed to get all of its Saturday single-copy editions to count toward its Sunday circulation by replacing the regular Saturday newsstand paper with a quasi-bulldog/early-Sunday edition.

This Saturday paper is stamped with a Sunday dateline, and above the banner, reads "Saturday's News Plus Sunday's Features." Its hard news is from Saturday, but this edition is supplemented with Sunday's feature sections, including some preprint ads. This makes it different from your typical bulldog edition, an early Sunday paper that hits newsstands late Saturday night. Subscribers get the standard Saturday edition.

The result: The Courant can take the number of its Saturday newsstand sales and put it in the Sunday column in its statement for the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The Courant's most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations Publisher's Statement for the six months ending March 2006 reflects the paper's shrinking Saturday single-copy sales. The Courant held steady in the single-copy category Monday through Friday (with about 20,500 papers sold at 50% or more), but on Saturday that number plummeted to 92 copies. On Sunday, the Courant counted 40,749 papers in the more-than-50%-paid category for single-copy, down from 49,411 in March 2005.

Meanwhile, it reported 19,911 copies in the discounted single-copy category. (The paper recorded a goose egg for the same period in 2005.)

The Courant isn't making Saturday newsstand buyers shell out Sunday prices: It's selling the newsstand copies at the regular Saturday cost of 50 cents, and Sunday goes for $1.50 -- hence the jump in discounted Sunday copies.

Vivian Chow, the Courant's vice president of human resources and corporate affairs, says the strategy is used to "stabilize the Sunday circulation numbers." In the latest period, Sunday circ grew 2.8% (7,669 copies) to 272,918.

The swap didn't go unnoticed. Elizabeth Ellis, publisher and owner of the Journal Inquirer, an evening paper published Monday through Saturday in Manchester, Conn., about 10 miles east of Hartford, couldn't believe the strategy was legit -- and she sent several letters to ABC. …

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