Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Latest ABC circulation report pegs digital at 15.3% of total newspaper circulation, though continuing declines in print readership bring down total circulation by 0.2%

Digital subscriptions now account for 15.3 percent to total newspaper circulation, according to the new report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). Overall, newspapers continue to see circulation fall, though with gains seen in digital, circulation only fell 0.2 percent.

Some papers, such as The Boston Globe, managed to see their total circulation increase during the reporting period. The Globe's paid circulation increased by 11.9 percent.

"These numbers build on a trend we first saw this spring, when the Globe’s paid circulation grew for the first time since September 2004," said the Globe's publisher Christopher Mayer. "This reflects our readers’ commitment to our award-winning journalism, no matter what the platform."

But The Globe continues to see erosion in print readership, with Sunday circulation down 6 percent, and daily down 9 percent over the same period last year.

Both The New York Times and Wall Street Journal also recorded big gains in total circulation thanks to their digital subscription efforts. The WSJ now claims 794,594 digital subscribers, while the NYT now has 896,352, with only 717,513 in print.

Other major daily newspapers, though, are lagging far behind the big national papers in attracting digital subscriptions. Gannett newspapers, in particular, have few paid digital subscribers claimed in the latest report.

The New York Daily News and Washington Post posted overall decreases in total circulation of 11.5 and 8.9 percent each.

There is a lot of good news in the latest AC report, but I wonder what the effect of the continuing decreases in print seen at the major papers will have at newspapers maintaining their print circulation.

National advertisers, if they see that the big newspaper brands are not good vehicles for their print ads, will likely pull those schedules nationally. As a result, a newspaper such as the Arizona Republic, which has very little paid digital circulation, and is trying to maintain its print circulation, might see national ads fall off simply from the perception that newspapers are no longer a good vehicle for such ads.

It's possible, I suppose, to make an argument that magazines might benefit from this – though that might be a stretch.