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Newspapers Moving Away From Paid Circ?

Newspapers have long complained that the main way of measuring their audience--i.e., paid print circulation--is unfair when it is compared to television and radio, which tout audience share. And now the industry is moving toward tracking total audience, rather than just the people who pay for a print edition. The new system will be on display next week when the Audit Bureau of Circulations puts out its numbers for more than 700 dailies. And it couldn't come too soon--as paid circulation continues its inexorable slide.

According to insiders, daily circulation for reporting papers in the six-month period ending in September was down about 2.5%, while Sunday was off 3.5% in the same type of decline that has been occurring as far back as 2005. And several majors have been hit even worse, falling more than 7%. Among them: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Miami Herald and The Dallas Morning News. Publishers of those sheets blame the drops on the cutback in other paid circulation, including school, hotel, and third-party copies. They have also been cutting distribution areas, as it can be costly to reach outlying communities in print.

At the AJC, where paid circ was off 9% both daily and Sunday, the "losses are in line with our expectations," says Robert Eickhoff, senior vice president of operations. "We are focusing on individually paid, and marching down a very strategic path.




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