Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Circulation Corrected, But Still Down

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Circulation Corrected, But Still Down

Questions about declining circulation numbers printed last month in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sent executives at the daily paper scrambling to grab a pencil and recalculate.

The statewide paper’s September statement of ownership, management and circulation, required by the United States Postal Service, originally put the paper’s total paid circulation at 82,973, down from 109,442 just a year earlier. That was a mistake, Democrat-Gazette General Manager Lynn Hamilton tells Whispers, citing a clerical error.

Corrected numbers published this month put paid circulation at 100,135, still off but not near the 25 percent decline suggested by the earlier statement. The paper “found a significant clerical error” in the September report and let the Postal Service know it would be republishing its statement.

The new numbers reflect changes beyond readers’ subscription habits, Hamilton said. Nearly 11,000 of 16,479 lost subscriptions relate to “reducing trial sample copies (mostly first-month free offers), moving our Newspapers in Education program from print to digital, and converting print readers to iPads in outlying counties,” he said.

The paper has halted print distribution in some parts of the state, giving $800 iPads to those who converted their subscriptions to digital.

Hamilton said the remainder of the past year’s decrease, about 5,637 copies or 4.8 percent of the previous total, reflects “the natural attrition that is occurring in our business.” Indeed, the 4.8 percent slide is not out of line with circulation declines of near 4 percent or more reported by several Arkansas publications, including the Jonesboro Sun.

The Sun’s average circulation, about 11,000, is down 36 percent in the last six years. In 2000, the Sun’s circulation was 29,388. The Democrat-Gazette, flagship of Wehco Media Inc. of Little Rock, had a weekday circulation of about 190,000 10 years ago, according to figures compiled by the Arkansas Press Association.

The numbers in the Postal Service statement reflect circulation of both the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, its sister paper, Hamilton confirmed.