Interesting report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning on newspaper circulation. The trend is still down there and everywhere, less so at the D-G than at other daily newspapers.
Newspaper owner Walter Hussman is navigating conflicting currents. He’s raised the price of the newspaper and charges for full Internet access under the theory that news gathering costs money and readers should and will pay to receive it. The New York Times has made a similar move and now gets more money from circulation than advertising.
But the Democrat-Gazette also has a healthy amount of free material on its website and it has a free weekly paper focused on younger readers and entertainment. And now we learn a move to a free Sunday paper has prevented a circulation decline in that valuable part of the newspaper business (Sunday is the day for national advertising inserts, whose rates are pegged to circulation.)
The newspaper reported that daily circulation had dropped 5.8 percent the last year, to 137,767, while Sunday circulation rose 14.8 percent to 245,603. The rise on Sunday was attributed to free weekly sections — the Sunday Digest for Pulaski County and the Weekend Wrap for Northwest Arkansas. “That obviously has helped us on Sunday quite a bit,” Circulation Director Larry Graham said.
The article didn’t mention how many free Sunday sections are distributed. The article didn’t say if paid circulation on Sunday was up or down.
It’s interesting because the Arkansas Times has followed the free circulation model for years. It saved us, in fact. For years, too, some critics have wanted to deride the value of free publications. To complete the set of paradoxes, we require a subscription for unlimited access to our Arkansas Blog (it’s a metered pay model with some free access allowed every 30 days.)