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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sun-Times boasts circulation games

Posted By on 05.01.12 at 05:21 PM

Can we trust these figures?
  • Can we trust these figures?
Circulation numbers used to be something you could get your head around. A daily newspaper printed so many issues, and the circulation was the number people bought.

It's a new world. The Audit Bureau of Circulations reported its latest six-month figures, and the Sun-Times rules the local roost.

The ABC "ranked the Sun-Times and its branded editions as the ninth largest newspaper in the country, just ahead of the Tribune," the Sun-Times reported. "The Sun-Times editions include six suburban dailies, a three-times-a-week paper and the Pioneer Press chain of weeklies."

If you haven't been paying attention, you might wonder what such titles as the Lake Zurich Courier and Post-Tribune in Lake County, Indiana, have to do with the Sun-Times. Under recent rule changes, they are known as "branded editions" and count. If it's a charade, the Tribune goes along with it. For the Tribune reports:

"Offsetting print losses with digital gains, the Chicago Sun-Times and its network of branded suburban papers passed the Chicago Tribune in average weekday circulation in the latest six-month report released Tuesday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations."

Yes, digital circulation counts too, and well it should, even if no one knows just what weight to give it.

Here are the ABC lines on the two Chicago dailies:

Print

Sun-Times 200,503
Tribune 387,217

(Once upon a time that was the only circulation number that mattered)

Total Digital

Sun-Times 68,986
Tribune 27,373

Total Excluding Branded Editions

Sun-Times 269,489
Tribune 414,590

Total Branded Editions

Sun-Times 152,846
Tribune 0

Total Average Circulation as of 3/31/12

Sun-Times 422,335
Tribune 414,590

Total Average Circulation as of 3/31/11

Sun-Times 419,408
Tribune 437,205

% Change

Sun-Times 0.70%
Tribune -5.17%

Here's an overview of the ABC report that shows (if you scroll down) the new numbers of the country's top papers, including the whopping lead the Tribune still holds over the Sun-Times on Sunday. Included is some good advice:

"Significant ABC U.S. rule changes in the past 18 months have addressed the newspaper industry’s continuing transformation and publishers and advertisers emphasis on cross-media audience metrics, not focusing solely on paid print circulation."

Therefore . . .

"Due to the many ways that newspapers now distribute and market their content—metered paywalls, mobile apps, bundled subscriptions, branded editions—ABC cautions against drawing too many direct comparisons of the data."

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