August 28, 2012

The decision by Advance Newspapers to cut back to three days of print publishing at the Harrisburg Patriot-News and the Syracuse Post-Standard comes amid slides in print circulation at the papers.

Recent reports from the Audit Bureau of Circulations show print sales — not counting branded and digital editions, which ABC now allows publishers to add to their print circulation — dropping pretty steeply in Harrisburg and Syracuse, while digital audiences get stronger.

Harrisburg Patriot-News

Average print circulation for the year ending March 31, 2012:

  • 110,618 Sunday
  • 63,760 Weekday

Average Sunday print circulation is down 3 percent from 2011 and 17.4 percent since 2009. Weekday sales were down 6.8 percent from the prior year and 29.2 percent since 2009.

The long-term trend is clear.

Since 2009, average print circulation has fallen 17.4 percent on Sunday and 29.2 percent on weekdays.

Meanwhile ABC and comScore say its unique website readers are up 454 percent to 1.57 million, from 346,000 in 2009. (The paper actually claims 2.7 million unique visitors as of January, citing to its Omniture data.)

The Patriot-News also said it is still deciding which two days other than Sunday it will continue to print a newspaper. Currently the paper’s most-read days in print come at the end of the week. In order:

  1. Thursday (69,060)
  2. Friday (67,692)
  3. Saturday (61,138)
  4. Wednesday (61,089)
  5. Tuesday (60,685)
  6. Monday (60,269)

Syracuse Post-Standard

Average print circulation for the year ending March 31, 2012:

  • 135,246 Sunday
  • 76,569 Weekday

Average Sunday circulation, all things considered, has not suffered that badly. It is down 2.4 percent from the prior year and down 12.7 percent since 2009. But weekday print sales have slid faster, down 7.3 percent from the prior year and 28.6 percent since 2009.

The Post-Standard does not report its Web audience to the ABC, but its marketing materials claim it has 1.3 million unique visitors a month, and that reaches 78 percent of Internet users in the Syracuse region.

* * *

Of course, audience is only one piece of this puzzle. Other questions shaping the future of this strategy include the impact on print advertising, and the ability of digital ad revenue to grow quickly, since the papers are not planning to implement paywalls.

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Jeff Sonderman ( is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

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