Circulation Is Down But Not By Much
On Nov. 10, the Audit Bureau of Circulations released the latest figures for some Maine daily newspapers. While none of the papers being audited by ABC showed an increase in circulation, the Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News both had numbers that were significantly better than last year at this time.
The Press Herald saw its average weekday circulation decline by 4.6 percent from 54,818 in the six months ending Sept. 30, 2010 to 52,323 for the half year concluding at the end of this September. That’s less of a loss than the one between 2009 and 2010, when the Portland paper dropped 9.9 percent of its readers. But it isn’t anything close to the circulation increase that deposed CEO Richard Connor had been claiming.
The Maine Sunday Telegram looked better. After shedding over 10 percent of its average weekly circulation between ’09 and ’10, it lost only 111 sales each week this year over last, just one tenth of one percent. It sold an average of 82,300 copies each Sunday.
For the first time in many years, the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel submitted numbers to the ABC. The KJ had weekday average sales of 11,224 and Sunday circulation of 11,475. The Sentinel sold 14,532 weekdays and 14,366 on Sunday. Since there were no reports last year, there’s nothing to compare these figures to.
Preliminary numbers for the Bangor Daily leaked out a couple of weeks ago, but the revised numbers look a little better. The BDN’s weekday sales were down 4.9 percent to 47,474. Last year, the loss was 5.5 percent. On weekends, the Bangor paper averaged 56,065 copies, just 2.5 percent under the 2010 figure and far better than the 5 percent drop the year before.
The Journal Tribune in Biddeford and the Times Record in Brunswick usually report their numbers to ABC, but didn’t do so this time. The Lewiston Sun Journal hasn’t filed in several years.
ABC made some changes this year to its formula for determining what counts as paid circulation, so comparisons with previous reports aren’t entirely accurate reflections of what’s happening. But the overall trend with these numbers (and the U.S. Postal Service figures published in October) seems to indicate the dramatic drops in sales are over, and the industry in Maine may have finally hit bottom.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.