Denver Post: Pay no attention to those down-spiraling circulation numbers

This week, the Audit Bureau of Circulations released its dreaded figures. The news for the nation’s papers was pretty much bad all around, part of the ongoing New Orleans-style national funeral march for the world of daily paper-and-ink journalism.

Coming off the bonus circulation it won last year at the death of the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Post suffered significantly dipping numbers, again, part of decade-long slide. Is that how the Denver Post wrote the story of the news? Of course not. It joined in the parade of justification and silverlining featured in the stories on the topic in most of the rest of nation’s papers.

In the business pages, Tom McGhee reported that the ABC data demonstrated that most Rocky Mountain News readers had not yet canceled their subscriptions to the Post. Under the title “Ex-News readers turn to Post” McGhee reported that the Post “has retained 86 percent of News home-delivery customers.”

The new circulation data showed merely a “slight decline.” What was that decline? McGhee was careful to stay in the realm of percentages on that score. Daily circulation was down 8.3 percent. That doesn’t sound so slight. That sounds like a lot. It is a lot. McGhee then gives a double set of circulation numbers with which readers are left to do their own math.

According to a new Denver Scarborough Report, 1.1 million adults read The Sunday Post and 752,570 read the daily paper.

But then this:

The Post’s report to the ABC listed Sunday circulation of 495,485, Saturday circulation of 410,358 and Monday- through-Friday circulation of 340,949.

That’s less good by more than half for some unexplained reason, but okay.

So if the Post lost 8.3 percent of its daily readers, it either lost 62,463 or 28,299 readers, which means the Post in the last six months lost a population of readers equal to or greater than the adult populations of most of the non-Denver cities in the state– a “slight decline.”

A year ago, according to the ABC data, the Rocky Mountain News and the Post combined to sell 420,867 daily papers. In 2000 they sold 893,000 papers. That number has been dipping steadily ever since. Does anyone imagine the number will do anything but dip further in the next six months?

McGhee doesn’t delve into any of that– no analysis of business plans or of what the new numbers mean. Instead there’s this:

Justification:

About 75 percent of declines since the News closed were the result of scaled-back statewide distribution and a reduction of free distribution to area hotels, schools and employees, the company said.

Also, the price of a single copy rose to 75 cents from 50 cents.

Almost every major U.S. daily suffered circulation declines in the April-to-September period, according to the ABC.

Silverlining:

The Post’s website, denverpost .com, has attracted virtually all former Rocky MountainNews.com traffic.

Omniture, an online-marketing and Web-analytics firm, found that denverpost.com and YourHub.com received 4.4 million unique visitors who accessed more than 30 million pages.

McGhee is a business reporter yet he’s telling us about web traffic without tying the numbers even to any rough related revenue figures.

Corrupt politicians and corporate heads must take heart seeing the state paper of record working this hard to cover the major news story of its sinking business with press release-style dodgy reporting and rosy puffball language.

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