I’ll admit, I did not call Ben Taylor, the Star Tribune’s spokesperson, for comment about the paper’s circulation drop; he hasn’t returned a call or email of mine since last November, and this morning, I frankly didn’t even try. My bad.
But thankfully, the Strib still speaks to the PiPress, and St. Paul reporter Nicole Garrison-Sprenger got the explantion I should’ve at least tried for.
Paraphrasing Taylor, she writes, “The Minneapolis paper’s circ drop is deliberate as the paper tries to shed some of its third-party circulation in favor of single-copy and individual paid-subscriptions.”
That claim is mostly true on weekdays, and mostly untrue on Sundays.
About three-quarters of the Strib’s weekday drop comes from the “other” category that includes bulk sales to hotels and advertiser-sponsored event giveaways. Thus, the Strib’s “core” weekday circulation (single copies and home delivery) fell about 1.3 percent — far lower than the 4.2 percent overall drop.
On Sundays, Taylor’s spinning a bit more. Here, 60 percent of the drop is “core,” not “other.” The 5.4 percent core Sunday drop is smaller than the 8.6 percent overall Sunday decline, but it’s pretty large — especially for the week’s most proftable paper.
By the way, the Strib continues to prop up its weekday circulation with discounts.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations says you’re discounting if you sell a paper at between 25 percent and 50 percent of the basic subscription rate. The Strib’s weekday discount copies climbed from 11,764 in September 2007 to 21,036 in September 2008. Sunday numbers have held flat at around 23,800.
The Pioneer Press, whose weekday and Sunday circulation is stable, has actually reduced discounting.
Caveat: Such drops can occur if the paper lowers its basic subscription rate (which bumps more people into the non-discount percentages). I don’t know if that’s the case in St. Paul; will check if I have time, but man, I think I’m ready to move on to other topics.