Newspapers Adopt Total Audience to Report Circulation

Includes Free and Paid Print and Online Readership

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Newspapers' paying readers continued to dwindle in the latest six-month circulation report, which was released yesterday morning by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, but the industry and the audit bureau made their boldest push yet to shift the emphasis to readers of any kind, whether in print or online and whether they paid a dime or not. That kind of overall audience, not coincidentally, can still produce the growth that eludes print sales today.

The new report from the audit bureau, the Newspaper Association of America and Scarborough Research is called Audience-FAX, expanding on the bureau's familiar FAS-FAX report.

Website activity included
"Audience-FAX is a critical and indeed a welcome addition to the resources available to the advertising community," John Sturm, president-CEO of the newspaper association, said during a conference call. "For the first time, U.S. daily newspapers will report print and online readership, net combined audience and website activity together."

It isn't clear yet how media buyers will respond to the emphasis on audience. Advertisers frequently argue that paid circulation still matters more because their brand needs to reach their target customers repeatedly and through a platform to which he or she is committed. Audience-FAX also allows newspapers to choose whether they measure web traffic with Nielsen Online, ComScore or Omniture -- all of which produce very different figures.

On the traditional metric of paid circulation, newspapers continued to suffer. Only four of the top 25 U.S. newspapers by paid circulation reported bigger Monday-through-Friday averages for the six months ending Sept. 30, than the equivalent six months last year.

USA Today, the largest, expanded paid weekday circulation by 1.04%; the Los Angeles Times, at No. 4, grew by half a percentage point; The Philadelphia Inquirer, at No. 16, added 2.31%; and No. 22, the St. Petersburg Times, was essentially flat but technically up 0.04%.

Declines for Post, Daily News
The rival New York Post and New York Daily News, which each stood out for expanding paid circulation in the last round of reports, both reported weekday declines this time. The News reported a 1.73% decline but regained the paid-circulation lead over the Post, which reported a 5.24% decline.

Weekday declines also materialized at The Wall Street Journal, down 1.53%; The New York Times, down 4.51% partly because of price increases; the Washington Post, down 3.23%; and the Chicago Tribune, down 2.9%.
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