Working Together, Denver Newspapers Lose Readers

A year after entering into a joint sales agreement that publishers two dailies under one umbrella, MediaNews Group’s Denver Post and E.W. Scripps’ Rocky Mountain News shows both papers suffered circulation declines in the first six months of the year. The Denver Newspaper Agency, which publishes both papers, says it expected the papers to loose readers since prior to the JSA the two had offered deep-discount subscriptions in a fierce battle.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, for the six months ending September 30, the two papers weekday circulation was virtually tied. ABC figures show the Post averaged 305,060, while the News averaged 304,949 – a difference of just 111. Under the JOA, both dailies publish separate morning papers Monday through Friday, with the same classified advertising sections. On weekends, the News produces the Saturday paper and the Post publishes the Sunday paper. The latest ABC numbers show the News Saturday edition averaged 621,220, down 54,000 from 2001. The Post’s Sunday paper averaged 789,137, a decline of 12,178 from 2001.

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DNA president Kirk MacDonald said they made a “conscious decision” to honor the so-called “penny” subscriptions sold prior to the start of the JOA in September 2001, knowing that some circulation would fall off when those customers came up for renewal at increased rates. It is for that reason that they expected some of decline in circulation. That said, Denver newspapers continue to outsell papers in similar-sized cities.

“When you consider that Denver is only the 18-TH largest market, and yet we are among the top 10 in daily and Sunday circulation and leading the industry in household penetration, it clearly establishes Denver as a premier newspaper market,” says MacDonald. DNA calculates that the new circulation numbers reflect a daily household penetration of slightly more than 50% and 63% on Sunday.

Citing the 2002 Scarborough Report, MacDonald noted that the scope of The Post and News combined audience is so strong that it would take 70 TV spots on the top 5 broadcast outlets and 600 drive-time spots across the top 10 radio stations, all spread over one week, to equal the pulling power of one daily print ad in both Denver newspapers.

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