Articles about "Circulation"

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PoynterVision: how NPR goes after emerging news audiences

Patrick Cooper, director of web and engagement at NPR, talks about trends that he sees coming in news audiences. In particular, he pays attention to fragmented audiences, the way audiences divide their time among devices, and the challenges that come with capturing those individuals. Cooper, who spoke at Poynter’s Future of News Audiences conference Jan. 26-27, offers us insights into NPR’s approach in drawing audiences.

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A USA Today newspaper box is shown in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Why USA Today’s huge growth in digital circulation isn’t what it seems

The Alliance for Audited Media released a new round of circulation figures today — a twice-yearly occasion for newspapers to write about themselves. In true Halloween spirit, a few of them published press releases disguised as staff reports, de-emphasizing evidence of dwindling print circulation in favor of stressing digital gains. Read more

The New York Times and The Wall Street Jounal are displayed at a newsstand on Monday, July 28, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

USA Today’s circulation up 67 percent? Newspaper industry makes comparisons increasingly difficult

Alliance for Audited Media

Circulation in September 2013 rose at The New York Times, flattened at The Wall Street Journal and skyrocketed at USA Today, according to figures released Thursday by the Alliance for Audited Media. AAM is no longer releasing lists of the nation’s largest newspapers, citing “the change to comparative five-day averages” as more newspapers change their print publishing schedules. In fact, the new figures make many comparisons challenging.

Take USA Today, whose average Monday-Friday circulation rose an eye-popping 67 percent in September 2013, from 1,713,833 the year before to 2,876,586. Its print circulation, however, fell 19 percent year-over-year. USA Today’s averages include 1,545,364 digital replica and non-replica editions, up 1,690 percent from the 86,307 it counted in September 2012 (not to mention 14,357 branded editions).

The New York Times’ average Sunday circulation rose nearly 14 percent over the year before. Average Monday-Friday circulation rose nearly 18 percent, from 1,613,865 to 1,897,890. But print circulation fell 2 percent year-over-year on Sundays, and nearly 6 percent on weekdays.

The New York Times Co. Thursday reported it had 727,000 digital subscribers in the third quarter of 2013, up 28 percent over the same period the year before. Circulation revenue long ago passed advertising revenue at the New York Times Co. It was up nearly 5 percent in the third quarter and is up 6.5 percent for the first nine months of 2013. Advertising revenue is down by nearly the same percentage over the first three quarters.

The Wall Street Journal’s average Monday-Friday circulation was essentially flat, falling a little under 1 percent over the year before, from 2,293,798 to 2,273,767. Read more

Esquire app on an iPad

Why news organizations shouldn’t write off tablet magazines

Jon Lund in GigaOM recently declared tablet magazines a failure.

That’s true in the sense that they haven’t substantially impacted overall magazine circulation. Using Alliance of Audited Media numbers, Lund lists the percentages that “digital replica” paid subscriptions, such as for tablets, contributes to the total circulation for 25 magazines. They ranged from a high of 38 percent of total circulation (Game Informer Magazine, a noted outlier) to 2 percent (People magazine).

Like Lund, I’d discourage any new publication from focusing solely on tablet apps, stored deep inside iPad folders or in the dreaded Newsstand, far from the dynamic reach of social media and the Web.

But sometimes it’s nice to retreat to a dark, quiet, closed-off space on a tablet. And magazine apps are contributing enough to circulation figures that we shouldn’t write them off as worthwhile components of our larger digital strategies — especially if publishers are smart about how much they invest in producing them.

Lund cites The Daily, which failed not only as a tablet-only publication but also as a tablet-only publication granted lots of free publicity by virtue of its status as an iPad pioneer. That’s a useful example in the argument against interactive magazines as digital media panacea.

But consider two of my favorite digital magazine apps: The New Yorker and The Atlantic Weekly.

The former, despite its irritating recent switch from paginated content to breathtakingly long scrolls, offers the cleanest, most convenient way for me to read New Yorker pieces. And it takes advantage of the tablet form without resorting to flashy interactive design. Short videos and poems read aloud by authors enrich the content without requiring lots of extra production resources.

The Atlantic’s foray into weekly publishing, meanwhile, also presents a model for tablet content that doesn’t profess to be a game-changer but fits nicely alongside the company’s other digital products. The Atlantic Weekly bundles pre-existing content from the Web that readers might have missed during the week. It collects only a few stories, presenting them all in the same simple design template.

Although these relatively simply apps certainly cost something in terms of staff and publishing-platform fees, Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet told Poynter in an email: “We do put a good deal of work into The Weekly – we wouldn’t be asking readers to pay for it if we didn’t – but we’ve been pretty rigorous about scoping that work to keep the costs in line with sales,” Bennet said.

The Atlantic Weekly requires work from four primary staffers: an editor, copy editor, designer and producer, none of whom work on this product full-time. He didn’t disclose sales figures but said they’ve exceeded expectations. Three-quarters of readers are monthly ($2.99) or yearly ($19.99) subscribers; single editions cost $1.99.

While it’s true that The New Yorker’s digital edition only accounts for 7 percent of total paid circulation, we tend to frame print circulation drops of 7 to 10 percent as pretty significant. If 10-percent circulation drops inspire feelings of doom, shouldn’t the prospect of 10-percent circulation boosts thanks to digital editions inspire feelings of hope?

Lund’s point that digital magazines suffer from lack of social connections is a good one. So is his point that phone and tablet users spend most of their time with only a few essential apps, and it’s better to meet them where they are — on Twitter, Flipboard and the like — than to hope they’ll remember to keep visiting your app, buried among dozens.

Yet the strongest media brands can meet readers everywhere; they don’t have to choose between having a website and having an app. That’s what makes initiatives like The Atlantic Weekly so fascinating — they recognize this notion that, sure, most of the time you just want to focus on your Facebook news feed and manage your email. But when you want to pull back from those demands on your attention and just read some good stories distraction-free — even if it’s just for the 20 to 30 minutes a week when you think to open the app — the Atlantic Weekly will be there.

Tablets are multifaceted — it’s pretty amazing that I can retreat from the chaos of the Web to a book or magazine or TV show on the same device that was overwhelming me before. (Remember: e-books, while no longer booming, have carved out a nice place in our modern lives despite being as disconnected from the social Web as digital magazines.)

Still, I’m concerned about some apps, like the sensational interactive Esquire. According to mobile editions editor Mark Mikin, it takes three designers, an in-house Hearst Digital Media post-production team and four editors to produce the magazine app. And that’s not all: “Every ‘print’ editor and every ‘print’ art director and photo editor contributes ideas for interactivity and multimedia,” Mikin said via email. “We really all sit down in one room with the intent of figuring out how to make every idea on paper something unique and engaging on the iPad.”

That all-in effort makes for a tremendous product, but it requires significant staff resources to reinvent so much print content. So I’m with Lund in one respect — it’s hard to look at the numbers and feel confident that a major investment in heavily interactive magazines will pay off. The many challenges — zeroing in on workable price points, figuring out how to bundle apps with other digital content, publishing on various operating systems, asking readers to routinely download large files, integrating app production into a publication’s overall workflow — make the task even more daunting.

Pages from The Atlantic, The New Yorker and Esquire

But that doesn’t mean publications should stop experimenting with apps completely — at least not until the Web becomes so robust that apps lose their advantages in bundling, design, and interactivity and this debate becomes moot.

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Advocate publisher says paper is adding 500 subscribers a week

The Advocate | NPR | New York Times

John Georges, publisher of The Advocate in Louisiana, told the New Orleans City Council on Thursday the paper is adding 500 new subscribers each week as it expands from Baton Rouge into New Orleans.

“The Advocate feels very loved right now,” Georges told the council, according to his own paper. Georges said it was proof the city wants a seven-day newspaper delivered to homes after the city’s Times-Picayune became a three-day-a-week paper to focus on

The expansion of the Advocate into a daily New Orleans edition has been fraught with drama. The Advocate has recently poached a raft of talent from the Times-Picayune, which has planned a new “street” tabloid for previous non-print days. Georges has been quite vocal about wanting to take over the Big Easy, telling WWL-TV anchor Melanie Hebert he had wanted to buy the Times-Picayune outright, but Advance insisted it wasn’t for sale. Read more


Newspaper carrier saves person from fire while on duty

The Reidsville Review | Greensboro News & Record | WGHP-TV

Steve Bradshaw, a newspaper carrier for Warren Buffett-owned World Media Enterprises, pulled a man from a burning house Sunday, Danielle Battaglia reports in The Reidsville Review. Bradshaw was on duty in Reidsville, N.C., Sunday morning and saw smoke at a house; he “tried to pound on the front door to see if anyone lived there.”

Bradshaw — who said he was a former volunteer firefighter — pulled a man who was inside the house out through a window. “He was overwhelmed by the smoke,” he told Battaglia.

“Had [Bradshaw] not been there the outcome could have been substantially different,” Reidsville Fire Marshal Jay Harris told the paper.

Last December, a Roanoke (Va.) Times carrier saved a woman from a fire.

Related: Dallas Morning News gets serious about newspaper theft Read more

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Dallas Morning News gets serious about newspaper theft

Dallas Observer

Leslie Minora tells the Dallas Observer’s Joe Tone that, frustrated by two weeks of her newspaper getting filched, she “finally asked customer service to put my name on it, then I half-jokingly asked if I could include a threatening message. I was surprised when the woman laughed and seemed excited to help.”


Minora says the paper “has no idea if my building has cameras.”

Related: Roanoke Times carrier saves woman from fire | Dallas Morning News’ paywall is getting a makeover to try to capture digital-only readers Read more


New York Times passes USA Today in daily circulation

Alliance for Audited Media

U.S. newspapers saw daily circulation decrease on average by less than 1 percent from March 2012 to March 2013, according to the every-six-months report by the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations). Sunday circulation was down 1.4 percent on average.

The Top 5 newspapers by average daily circulation: (You can click on the image for a larger version.)

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Daily newspaper circulation totals ‘do not capture the full story’ anymore

On Tuesday, the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly ABC) will announce circulation totals for American newspapers, as it has done in regular six-month cycles for as long as I can remember.

I will hazard a guess about the results, but that’s not the news this time. What’s important is that the totals — and the list of the top 25 newspapers in average daily circulation generated from them — are headed for the scrap heap.

“The total circulation numbers do not capture the full story any longer,” Neal Lulofs, executive vice president at AAM, told me in a phone interview. AAM’s board has decided to make reporting a five-day average — long the standard — optional for papers. That means come October there will be no valid comparison of daily circulation among newspapers.

John Murray, who directs audience research and training at the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), said doing away with the familiar metric makes sense. “Totaling up the numbers is not a meaningful metric,” he said by phone, adding that “what advertisers want and use is the detailed breakdown” by day of the week and by category of distribution.

The coup de grace for the daily circulation average is the move at Advance Publications in New Orleans and other markets to print and deliver paper editions to homes only three days a week. Combining two days of full print publication and three off-days yields a nonsensical average, so Advance has petitioned for and received an exemption from reporting in that manner.

Even at the great majority of papers still publishing print every day, Thursday and Friday totals are likely to be far higher than Monday and Tuesday since weekend subscriptions have become a standard offering. Advertisers and agencies, who hold the majority of seats on the AAM board, favored dropping the five-day average, Murray said, “because it could overstate or understate the day they are placing an ad — and hardly anyone buys all five days.”

The AAM rule change will still allow comparison of Sunday circulations. However, the organization is also contemplating shifting to detailed rolling quarterly reports, phasing out the six-month periods.

As I have noted in earlier posts, the total circulation bottom line is not particularly comparable to the paid circulation total it supplanted several years ago. Also, publishers vary widely in how they are using new categories eligible for inclusion, so a valid comparison requires plenty of footnotes.

On the other hand, the top 25 lists have typically been the lead measure — or the only one — highlighted in trade-press reports on the bi-annual circulation figures. Inclusion on those lists and movement up or down compared to the same period a year earlier is probably still a source of bragging rights, at least for some publishers. So I suppose there could be interest in reconfiguring and continuing some form of daily comparison.

Several qualifiers will be particularly significant in examining Tuesday’s results. As paid print circulation for Sunday editions has fallen through the years, many publishers in larger cities have started offering a free packet of preprint/inserts to households in desirable ZIP codes that request them.

These so-called Sunday Select programs can count as a separate “verified” category in the total circulation figures. However, the rules for inclusion are cumbersome and the auditing process an added expense, so some publishers choose not to bother.

That’s also true for free “branded editions” distributed daily, whether they’re re-edited tabloid versions of the mother paper (like Chicago Tribune’s RedEye or the Tampa Bay Times’ tbt*) or a foreign-language reworking. Not all papers publish such products, and not all that do choose to qualify them for the audited report.

The fast rise of digital-only subscriptions and digital + print bundles is another potential source of confusion. In this transitional stage, many newspapers are adding to their totals with these paywall offers, but some holdouts are not. Also, a number of conversions were recent enough that they weren’t in effect for the full six-month reporting period.

And complex (and lenient) rules allow organizations to count digital access on two, three or four additional platforms for a given print user as separate subscriptions — if publishers so choose, which not all of them do.

With all these cautions about interpreting Tuesday’s numbers out of the way, what will they show? Here’s my forecast:

  • Paid print circulation, both daily and Sunday (now broken out as a subcategory), will fall as Gannett and many other chains switching to digital bundles have used the switch to raise prices aggressively. Such publishers are accepting some loss of print circulation volume to still come out with higher circulation revenue.
  • The total circulation result is a wild card, depending on how aggressively organizations have been adding other qualified products and how aggressive they are in buying the extra audits necessary to claim them.
  • Digital subscription and single-copy numbers will rise sharply (or displace print, if you look at it that way). You have the double bump of more papers — 450 at last count — making the new bundled offers and the option to count those accepting such offers multiple times. AAM requires a count of total customer accounts in individual audits so advertisers can apply a correction for double-counting if they wish.
  • Though AAM/ABC has never made circulation revenue estimates, it makes even less sense than before to assume one can compare the total circulations of similar newspapers and assume the same ratio of revenues.

The AAM rule changes have come in for some criticism, and right now they bring to mind the old line about a camel being a horse designed by committee. In my view, though, the changes — even if they may need further revision — reflect the complexity and variety of audience strategies at newspaper organizations, and the level of detail ad buyers want to see.

If that makes it more difficult for reporter/analysts like me to tell a simple story, so what? Read more


NAA turns feisty, boasting of ad effectiveness and digital subscription success

The Newspaper Association of America’s annual mediaXchange conference is always part industry promotion, an occasion for expressions of confidence. But at this year’s edition in Orlando last week, those sentiments had a fighting edge.

Outgoing chairman Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of the Dallas Morning News, chose a medley of down-home, don’t-mess-with-Texas aphorisms to open the conference. He said he was ready to bet against the “gaggle of self-proclaimed experts,” predicting the industry’s imminent demise that “print newspapers will still be around in 10 years” and that they will report their “first year-to-year increase in revenues (since the mid-2000s) by this time next year.”

Moroney, affectionately called “the Nutty Professor” by a later presenter, added that the industry should “open barrels of whoopass” on its critics and “ignore the Eeyores.”

In a similar vein, Moroney’s successor, Robert Nutting, CEO of Ogden Newspapers, said later in the conference: “We need to be our own evangelists; we need to get some of our swagger back.”

So what’s the case for swagger?

The NAA had commissioned a pair of studies documenting print ad effectiveness. One, an update of “How America Shops and Spends” by Frank N. Magid Associates, found that one-third of newspaper non-readers (those who read less than once a week) nonetheless use newspaper advertising, especially preprints and coupons in planning shopping.

A new study by Nielsen found that newspaper ads, compared to those in other media, are better remembered and more often acted upon, especially on key shopping occasions like Black Friday. And they were judged by those surveyed as “less annoying” than TV and digital counterparts.

In a separate session on new newspaper owner-investors, Terry Kroeger, who runs Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway group, was guarded on specific numbers but said the company had “an outstanding first quarter.” There should be more light this week on whether revenues and earnings are indeed trending upward as Gannett and the New York Times Co. report first quarter results.

Not surprisingly, the conference also highlighted the success of digital subscription plans and the 5 percent increase in circulation revenues they prompted in 2012.

Two different speakers from Gannett said that the company did deep research on the perceived value of newspapers before deciding on steep price increase for both print and print + digital bundles. Typically readers thought they were paying 50 to 200 percent more than they actually were. So why not charge accordingly?

I have argued in past posts that a hidden benefit of bundled print+digital subscription plans is that the industry will be well-positioned over time as reader preferences among platforms shift. For instance, a swing from laptop/desktop to mobile, as many are predicting for the several years, would be a non-event from a subscription point of view for the many subscribers now getting some form of all-access.

Consultant Matt Lindsay of Mather Economics, expressed a similar idea in a different fashion: part of the charm of the bundled model, he said, is that different subscribers can value the component parts differently and still be satisfied.

As a longtime New York Times print subscriber, for instance, I may see $50 of the $70 I pay a month as covering seven days a week of print home-delivery, the other $20 buying unlimited digital access. A young digital-first reader, who gets the less pricey digital and Sunday print option may have the reverse sense of what each is worth.

So I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that with metered paywalls and bundled subs, the industry has successfully transitioned to a new business model for collecting revenue from subscribers — more of them all the time are paying not just for the paper but for access to content whenever and on whatever platform they want.

The advertising side of the equation is trickier. Panelists at the conference typically reported that page views have gone down some since they put in a paywall but that digital advertising has held steady or increased. But Jerry Hill, Gannett’s top circulation director (and a colleague from his years at Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times) pointed out that there also is an indirect tradeoff in losing paid print subscribers and some print revenues, especially those from preprints. And, of course, print ads are still more lucrative than digital.

That is worth considering as companies boast of gains in digital subs and circulation revenues. Successful in their own terms, the new subscription plans may be contributing to continued advertising losses on the print side.

I came away from mediaXchange marking two other key issues in the category of unfinished business.

Through the NewsRight licensing agency the industry created, it continues to work on deals to collect royalties from aggregators for recycling and profiting from expensive-to-produce content newspapers originate. But content licensing is a complex matter legally and technologically and revenue success to date appears modest.

Similarly, the search for mobile ads to accompany the boom in audience for smart phones and tablets remains in an early stage.

George Bell, president and CEO of Jumptap, a leading mobile targeting vendor, said the industry’s audience has grown 10 times as quickly as the Internet did on desktop/laptop, and that both advertisers and publishers have years to go in developing effective marketing strategies.

“When people ask what inning we are in,” Bell said, “that’s the wrong metaphor. It is really more like asking a team to shift from playing baseball to playing soccer.” Read more

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