Monday, April 27, 2009

Commercial Appeal Gains Readership -- Sort Of ...

The Commercial Appeal tops a list of daily newspapers with circulation gains for the six months ending in March ...

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 6:13 PM

The Commercial Appeal tops a list of daily newspapers with circulation gains for the six months ending in March according to a report inEditor & Publisher. According to circulation specialist Jennifer Saba, the CA's circulation grew by a whopping 30.9 percent, in a period marked by layoffs, and a decimation of the paper's editorial staff. Obviously, there's a catch.

From E&P:

The Appeal noted that the advances made this spring were mostly due to an uptick in electronic editions used for Newspaper in Education (NIE) programs. Individually paid circulation at the CA declined 14.2 percent according to a comparison of the March 2009 and March 2008 FAS-FAX reports. "While we have seen declines in home delivery -- some of it because of the same things happening to other papers and some of it was self-imposed -- we had a dramatic increase in schools wanting to use NIE editions," said Karl Wurzbach, vice president of sales and marketing at the Appeal, about the rise in daily circ.

Any good news for the CA is welcome. The paper witnessed dramatic circulation losses in recent years and, as Wurzbach notes, cut back on home delivery in 2008. Redefining circulation is nothing new but counting online NIE programs as if it was the same as growth in newsstand sales or paid home delivery seems like a stretch if not an outright contortion.

Even if it's accurate, an accounting of students in NIE programs as subscribers would dramatically lower the average age and income of the CA's readership.

Regular paid-circulation, arguably the most telling metric for judging a daily newspaper's health, declined 14.2 percent, as E&P also reports. No matter how hard you spin it, that isn't good news.

--Chris Davis

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