David Kirkpatrick

November 24, 2009

Newspapers are worse off than advertised

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:26 pm

Probably much worse off. Not only is circulation down across the nation, new auditing rules allow newspapers to to count readers as paying customers in terms of circulation figures. I guess that’s nice to feebly prop up dying ad rates, but does nothing to stop the real bleeding. Add me to the cassandra chorus — newspapers as we still (barely) know them today will be gone within ten years. Maybe sooner.

From the link:

These looser standards are especially helpful to a newspaper if it sells an “electronic edition.” That can include a subscriber-only Web site, such as what The Wall Street Journal has, or it can be a digital replica of a newspaper’s printed product. Several dozen publications, including USA Today, sell access to these daily “e-editions” that show how the news was laid out in print.

Under the new auditing standards, if a newspaper sells a “bundled” subscription to both the print and electronic editions, the publication is often allowed to count that subscriber twice.

If not for these rules, the industry’s numbers would look even worse. Average weekday circulation at 379 U.S. newspapers fell 10.6 percent during the six months ending in September. That was the steepest decline ever recorded by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the organization that verifies how many people are paying to read publications.

It’s not clear what the numbers would have been under the old auditing standards. But the effects of the new rules were widespread. There were 59 newspapers that listed at least 5,000 electronic editions in their weekday circulations, according to an Associated Press review of the figures filed with the ABC for the April-September period. In all but a few instances, the number of electronic subscribers was substantially higher than a year ago.