I commented Wednesday on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette report on circulation figures. I wanted to know more about numbers underlying an increase in Sunday circulation. I got those figures today from Rachel Chaney, the newspaper’s business editor, and they show a big contribution from weekly free distribution..
The newspaper had 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 in the D-G article.
The article didn’t mention how much of the newspaper’s circulation was attributable to the free sections. I sent questions over and got an answer back this afternoon from Chaney.
The Sunday circulation figure includes 52,237 from the two weeklies — the Sunday Digest in Pulaski County and the Weekend Wrap in Northwest Arkansas. The Sunday figure also includes 2,730 in paid, digital-only subscriptions.
The daily circulation figure includes 3,284 from the weekly Sync and 4,455 from paid digital-only subscribers.
I don’t have at hand the information on when the Democrat-Gazette began including free publications in the circulation figures so I’m unable to say if the rise in Sunday circulation last year is explained by an increase in free or paid circulation or both. UPDATE: Both free sections started in 2014, the Wrap in January and the Sunday Digest in March, so all that was attributable to the average Sunday circulation in the most recent year. The comparisons are for circulation in September 2013 and September 2014.
You have to go back a long way to find reported paid circulation of the Sunday newspaper below 200,00, where the D-G would be today without the free section boost. The numbers jumped over 200,000 in the 1980s in the newspaper war, when discounting of prices was epidemic by the competing Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette.
The free sections have boosted numbers for national advertising inserts to offset circulation losses attributable at least in part to subscription price increases. We all, of course, hope people aren’t losing the newspaper reading habit. Right?
I had a small ironic laugh over this news on yesterday’s daily video news roundup. Time was, the establishment newspaper types made fun of people at the trashy throwaway tabloids for giving it away. Then along came the Internet.