Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Some newspapers near tipping point as digital circulation now reaches 14.2% of total circulation, according to ABC

Newspapers are reaching a tipping point where they can now claim larger digital circulation than print, thanks to new digital media platforms and changes to the rules used by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) for measuring circulation.

According to the new FAS-FAX report issued this morning by the ABC, digital circulation now accounts for 14.2 percent of total circulation, up from 8.66 percent in the report from last year (March 2011).

The ABC changed the way it measured circulation in response to the needs of publishers experimenting with new digital products. The first report to reflect those changes appeared last years, so the March 2012 report is the fits to appear that can be directly compared to the prior year.

Because of this, the report shows huge gains for The New York Times, with total average circulation climbing to 1,817,446, a 73.05 percent increase over the March 2011 report. The NYT now is reporting more total digital circulation (807,026) on its daily report than print (779,731).

Some papers were able to report large increases thanks to the "Total Branded Editions" category. Branded editions are defined as "editions of the newspaper that are published at least weekly, have a different name than the member newspaper, but are labeled to include the word edition.”
ABC also recognizes digital editions as both replica and nonreplica. Initially, there was an attempt to limit digital to replica editions, causing some publishers to believe that only exact replicas of their print editions would be recognized.

The New York Times, for instance, is shown on the new report with 30,329 digital replica circulation, but with 776,697 digital nonreplica circulation. Missing from the Top 25 newspapers in the digital editions category is the Chicago Tribune, while the Washington Post also continues to under perform major newspapers in digital circulation.

Update: The Boston Globe has issued a press release stating that the paper has recorded its first increase in circulation since 2004 with daily circulation up 2.9 percent to 225,482 (this puts them just out of the Top 25 as seen above), and 365,512 on Sunday, up 2.5 percent. The New York Times Company owned paper reported that it had 18,000 digital subscribers to its e-reader and replica edition products such as its The Boston Globe ePaper app.

You can read the TNM interview with the Globe's head of digital products, Jeff Moriarty, conducted last week.