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Star Tribune reports 5.7 percent Sunday circulation gain; daily circ falls 2.3 percent

Gotta do a little reporting on this and plunge into the actual data, but just received the press release and staff memo so I’ll give you the raw spin. I see I’m quoted favorably in the staff memo, so rest assured I’ll repay that with some stuff these communications may not be emphasizing. Audit Bureau of Circulations rules are as tricky as NFL tackling memos, so stay tuned.

Press release:

ABC Fas-Fax Reports Star Tribune Sunday Circulation Growth

Minneapolis-St. Paul – (October 25, 2010) -Star Tribune Sunday circulation grew 5.7 percent for the six-month period ending in September 2010, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) FAS-FAX report released today.

Sunday circulation averaged 504,616 compared to 477,564 for the same period last year—a gain of 27,052 copies or 5.7 percent.  The Star Tribune is now the ninth (update: later revised to eighth) largest Sunday newspaper in the country.

Star Tribune daily (5-day) circulation averaged 297,478, compared to 304,544 for the same period last year—a decline of 7,065 or 2.3 percent.  But daily circulation was up from the prior March reporting period by 2,040 copies. 

Additionally, ABC reported that the Star Tribune’s net combined monthly print and online audience is up 36,664 to 1,835,935 adults, a gain of 2 percent, as measured by Scarborough Research.

Michael J. Klingensmith, Star Tribune publisher and CEO said the Sunday growth is due primarily to the strong  success of the Star Tribune’s new early Sunday single copy edition, which was launched in October of 2009.  He added that improved home delivery subscriber retention has contributed to overall stronger performance compared to last year.  “We are improving our sales efforts by shifting almost entirely to direct mail from telemarketing, and we are writing much higher quality and higher retaining orders,” Klingensmith said.  “Also, we continue to focus on improving our customer service, which has contributed to higher retention.” 

Klingensmith noted that the combined print and online audience of the Star Tribune continues to grow steadily.  “The number of people that the Star Tribune reaches is higher than ever in its history,” Klingensmith said.  

Employee memo:

From Mike Klingensmith to all employees:

This morning the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) released its September FAS-FAX report, and the Star Tribune has reason to be proud.  We are growing, thanks to the confidence and support of our readers.  And you will see our ad in the paper tomorrow thanking them.

Of course, there are many people at the Star Tribune to thank as well.  The industry has gone though probably the most difficult time in the history of newspaper circulation these past few years as readers have sorted through the many options they now have to get news and information.  Our News and Editorial departments are responding to this challenge by creating more engaging and comprehensive content, while our Circulation Department is putting intense focus on customer sales and service.  And we are now beginning to see positive results.  Thanks to all of you at the Star Tribune who have pulled together in this effort.

For this 6-month reporting period ending in September, Star Tribune Sunday circulation is up 5.7 percent and is once again over the 500,000 mark.  We reported a Sunday circulation of 504,616, up from 477,564 for the same period last year.  This is the first time we have shown growth since 2004.

Much of this gain is due to the strong success of our early Sunday single copy edition that was launched last October.  But that’s not the whole story.  We are also up on Sunday compared to our last six-month statement released in March (a period which already featured our early Sunday program) by 2.4 percent or 11,589 copies.  We have made gains both in home delivery and single copy, which is a good indication that our circulation fundamentals are improving across the board.

Through the diligent efforts of the circulation department, we are seeing much more efficient home delivery sales efforts and much higher customer retention.  We are writing more high quality orders and continuously improving the responsive customer service that keeps subscribers renewing.

This is also playing out with daily circulation.  In the September report, daily circulation was down 2.3 percent year over year to 297,478, but when we compare to the March 2010 FAS-FAX, we are up more than 2,000 copies. This gives us encouragement about the momentum we are building. 

Also, our combined print and online readership continues its steady growth.  Today’s ABC release shows our overall combined print and online audience readership up 2 percent year over year to 1,835,935.

Further documenting the strength of the Star Tribune’s consumer reach, last week media blogger David Brauer released a local website ranking report based on Experian Hitwise data that puts Star Tribune.com a runaway number one in the market with a 41 percent share of local web visits — more than the four major television stations in the market combined.  The distant second in the market, wcco.com, has a share of 13 percent.

The overall positive results from this September FAS-FAX are an important milestone that reflects a marked change in recent trends, and we should celebrate this success.  It means we are moving forward, but it does not mean our challenges are behind us.  In order to attract and hold audience, both in print and online, we will need to continue to be more competitive than ever.  This current ABC report is documentation that we can compete effectively. We have the know-how and the resolve.  But we have to keep pushing.  Thanks again for you efforts in keeping The Star Tribune Minnesota’s top choice for news.

— Mike Klingensmith

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