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Fresh circulation numbers released

Gannettoid.com | news@gannettoid.com | Posted: Oct. 26, 2009 • Morning report

New reports were released today from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the independent company that tracks newspaper circulation.

Gannett's USA Today had already made the most news in the circulation stories, pre-reporting a 17-percent decline and falling to No. 2 in the nation, but today's announcement added new angles to the coverage of the struggles newspaper companies have faced.

"The release may prompt news articles and reports that may or may not provide the full story and the essential context," a memo to staff of The Courier-Journal in Louisville from publisher Arnold Garson said.

Garson pre-reported his paper's numbers in the Friday memo. Daily print circulation fell 11.2 percent from the prior year to 168,158, according to Garson. Sunday circulation fell 5.3 percent to 238,612.

USA Today's decline was the worst in the history of the paper. Its total circulation is now 1.88 million. The paper claims to still be the top print-circulation paper while the new leader, The Wall Street Journal, is only No. 1 when counting its online subscribers.

In Detroit, where the Free Press and The Detroit News have scaled back print editions and stepped up its digital efforts, both papers show losses, according to an article by Bill Mitchell at The Poynter Institute. Both papers say the losses are in line with industry trends, a positive for the experiment.

Here is Garson's memo:

Circulation report
Garson, Arnold

Sent: Friday, October 23, 2009 5:24 PM
To: Louisville-All

To the staff:

The new Audit Bureau Circulation report on newspaper circulation volume will be released on Monday. The numbers, for the audit period March 30, 2009 to September 27, 2009, will show declines for newspapers throughout the country. The release may prompt news articles and reports that may or may not provide the full story and the essential context.

I want to provide The Courier-Journal's audited figures for you in advance of the release and with appropriate commentary.

Daily print circulation volume will be down 11.2 percent over prior year, to 168,158. Sunday circulation volume will be down 5.3 percent over prior year, to 238,612. Many metro newspapers will report much larger losses.

Virtually all of our losses stem from a strategic business decision to eliminate heavily discounted subscription rates. For years, we have maintained various circulation subscription rates and programs that offered substantial discounts from the full rate as a tool for enticing marginal subscribers. In today's economy, this is no longer a viable business practice. Our focus, instead, has shifted to retaining our most loyal subscribers and those who are of greatest value to our advertisers.

Moreover, it's important to note that we recently have put in place some new initiatives aimed at stabilizing our circulation volume in the months ahead, especially on Sundays. Although these programs have been in place only a short time, they appear to be working, and I am confident that they will show positive results in the coming months.

It's also relevant to note that The Courier-Journal's readership and reach, which are far more meaningful measures of our position in the market, remain strong. Our core product reaches 72 percent of the adults in our Newspaper Designated Market (7 counties) every week, according to Scarborough research for 2009. Our readership exceeds 500,000 adults in our NDM on an average Sunday, and exceeds 380,000 adults on an average weekday. Our own independent research from late 2008 shows that we reach 85 percent of the adults in our market an average of 5.6 times every week through all of our media products. 

In its local market, The Courier-Journal continues to reach more adults on an average day than any TV newscast, any TV reality program or any Web site. Thank you all for your hard work in keeping The Courier-Journal at top of the local media market, and know that we are committed to stabilizing the circulation trend very soon.

Arnold Garson | President and Publisher
The Courier-Journal | courier-journal.com
525 West Broadway | Louisville, KY 40202


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