Very little is clear about how many people are subscribing to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette these days, but one thing is certain. Independent audits of newspaper circulation are, like the papers themselves, increasingly a thing of the past.
The Democrat-Gazette, like most American papers, once had its circulation vetted by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, a group that has evolved over the years into the Alliance of Audited Media. In an AAM report Sept. 26, the Democrat-Gazette listed a total paid circulation of 64,205 for the issue closest to the filing date, Sept. 19, 2021. So Whispers asked Democrat-Gazette President Lynn Hamilton if he could reveal how many subscribers the publication has paying the basic rate of about $35 a month.
“This is a part of our financial records we don’t disclose as a private company,” Hamilton replied, also declining to reveal the company’s circulation revenue. “We don’t make any financial information available to the public.”
Just 15 years ago, in 2006, the Wehco Media Inc. flagship paper had a daily circulation of 180,661 and a Sunday run of 275,991.
Hamilton said that when potential advertisers ask about circulation these days, “we provide current numbers,” but he added that advertising rates are no longer tied to circulation figures. An advertising executive who asked for anonymity said that when he inquired about circulation, the answer came in terms of readership.
“Statewide, for all 75 counties, they told me 124,000 readers,” the ad exec said. “Since converting so much to digital, they no longer look at circulation numbers but rather at ‘readers.’”
Different formulas have long allowed publishers to calculate how much a subscription is passed along to be consumed by other readers. “Estimated guesswork,” the advertising man called it.