Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Exclusive: FAS-FAX Preview -- Circ Declines, Some Steep, Continue

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Exclusive: FAS-FAX Preview -- Circ Declines, Some Steep, Continue

Article excerpt

Newspaper executives have complained for years that the yardstick used to measure audience -- paid print circulation -- was unfair especially when compared to the likes of television and radio. Those media have always touted audience share to advertisers so why shouldn't newspapers? Finally after years of debate, the industry is moving towards tracking its total audience which encompasses all its products (especially online viewership) -- not just how many people plunk down some coins for the newspaper. The change will be reflected next Monday, when the Audit Bureau of Circulations releases numbers for more than 700 daily newspapers throughout the country.

The push to herald total audience is coming not a moment too soon since paid circulation continues on a downward slide. According to industry sources speaking to E&P, daily circulation for reporting papers in the six-month FAS-FAX period ending September is down about 2.5% while Sunday is expected to fall 3.5%. Those types of declines -- in the 2% and 3% range -- have been occurring as far back as the March 2005 period.

E&P has learned that several major papers have suffered declines in daily circ of over 7%, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Miami Herald and The Dallas Morning News. Asked for comment, publishers of these papers blamed the decreases partly on the cut back in other-paid circulation -- which includes Newspaper in Education, hotel, and third-party copies. And papers have been chopping distribution areas--it's too expensive to serve outlying communities, at least in print. Of course, some of the decline is occurring because fewer people are reading the print version. Single-copy sales, which is a barometer of paid circulation, have tumbled in recent years. This reporting period, the category is expected to decrease around 5%. But there are signs that publishers are cycling through circulation declines. Some major metros that are said to show either gains or slight decreases (less than 1%, which is considered an increase these days) include: the St. Petersburg Times, the San Jose Mercury News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, and The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Other declines, though, are steep. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's circulation fell about 9% for both daily and Sunday. "Those losses are in-line with our expectations," Robert Eickhoff, senior vice president of operations, told E&P. …

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