Newspaper Auditing Rules Masking Steep Subscriber Decline

November 23, 2009

(ChattahBox)—The steep decline in newspaper subscribers and a staggering loss of advertising revenue has been the death knell of many long-time metro papers. Since March 2007, 11 daily newspapers have closed their doors, according to Newspaper Death Watch. Yes, the current climate is so dire for newspapers there is even a site devoted to chronicling the demise of U.S. newspapers.

However, a few metro newspapers have actually posted subscriber increases, such as the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But according to an Associated Press review of subscriber numbers recorded by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), recently posted subscriber increases are deceptive and don’t tell the true story of the dismal state of print edition newspapers.

With a change in ABC accounting procedures, starting in April, newspapers were allowed to double count their print subscribers and online subscribers. The change allowed newspapers to record paying readers as anyone who spends at least a penny for a copy. Previous rules mandated that a newspaper had to sell for at least 25 percent of the basic price to qualify as paid circulation.

In the wake of the new accounting rules, newspapers began bundling their subscription prices to include the digital edition. Tacking on an extra 50 cents per week for access to the online newspaper, allowed newspapers to count online subscribers separately.

Newspapers defend the new auditing rules, because it shows advertisers the potential for paid subscribers of online content, even if they pay only a penny. But some media buyers are starting to question the circulation numbers. Allison Howald, U.S. director of print investment at PHD Media said, “You really have to do your homework now and ask newspapers about how much double counting is going on.”

What this all means for the future of newspaper print editions is hard to predict. But one thing is for certain; the future is in digital media. Newspapers just have to figure out how to make a profit from it.

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One Response to “Newspaper Auditing Rules Masking Steep Subscriber Decline”

  1. Valuable Internet Information » Newspaper Auditing Rules Masking Steep Subscriber Decline … on November 23rd, 2009 8:59 pm

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