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Digital boosts Pioneer Press, Star Tribune circulation — but local web use mixed

Each Twin Cities daily could take good news from Tuesday’s Audit Bureau of Circulations reports.

Pioneer Press front pageEach Twin Cities daily could take good news from Tuesday’s Audit Bureau of Circulations reports. Pioneer Press total circulation rose 8 percent on Sunday and 4 percent weekdays, while the Star Tribune became the fifth-biggest Sunday print paper in the country, behind only the New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post.

Still, the state of the industry is such that both “wins” came with caveats.

The PiPress weekday gains were only due to free digital and mobile apps; paid print and e-edition replicas were down a combined 2.2 percent. However, the PiPress focuses its efforts on Wednesday-Friday, where paid circulation rose 3.7 percent.

As for the Strib, Sunday print actually declined 14,700 copies, to 476,573 — indicating other U.S. papers are falling even faster. Strib officials note they instituted a price hike in April.

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PiPress Sunday print circulation, meanwhile, rose 482 copies, to 238,249. Paid Sunday, including e-edition replicas, climbed 3.2 percent.

PiPress weekday e-editions (55,788) are now at a stunning 43 percent of print levels (128,173). The Strib is at 21 percent (234,475 print; 65,802 e-editions and paid apps).

On the web side, the PiPress posted monster gains in its first year under Digital First management: unique monthly web cookies (bits of web code tracking individual browser/device usage) were up 30.6 percent over a year ago, to 2.4 million. The Strib, which instituted a pay wall after the 2011 report, was down 2.1 percent; still an impressive 7.5 million.

Star Tribune front pageHowever, the story flips when you get to the local level.

The reports include a “market penetration” stat that mass advertisers crave. There are two measures: one the newspaper focuses on (NDM) and a 66-county standardized market, known as DMA.

Online measures individuals who looked at the online site in a 30-day period. Here, the Pioneer Press fell 20 percent in its 7-county east-metro NDM and the 66-county DMA.

The Strib lost a bare 0.4 percent in its 13-county metro-wide NDM, and 6 percent in the larger DMA. Strib officials suggest looking at 7-day web use, to measure “engaged” users. There, they say traffic is up. (The stat is not available on the newest reports.)

Surprisingly, print — where the Strib was down overall — boosted overall local penetration. The Strib’s local share rose 4 percent in their chosen market and 6.5 percent in the 66-county area if you mix in print readers who saw a paper in a given week. This indicates the Strib lost print readers mostly outside local markets.

Meanwhile, PiPress penetration fell 3.7 percent in its market and 1.6 percent in the 66-county area. Both media organizations now hit roughly 54 percent of households in their targeted markets.