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Star Tribune, Pioneer Press Sunday print circulation drops 5 percent amid digital growth

Star Tribune, Pioneer Press Sunday print circulation drops 5 percent
MinnPost file photo by Corey Anderson
Overall, the Strib has 500,189 Sunday buyers, down 2.4 percent from the March 2013 period. The Pioneer Press, with 272,413 print and digital replica buyers, was up 2.1 percent.

Sunday print sales fell 5.1 percent at the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press, according to a report released Thursday by the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM).

However, the shift to digital is very evident in the report, which covers the six months ending March 2014. The Pioneer Press's Sunday "digital replica" — a print-paper PDF — posted a 61 percent circulation gain, while the Strib's rose 17.2 percent. And Strib's Sunday "non-replica" circulation — basically, digital subscribers who vault the pay wall — rose 14.4 percent.

Sunday print editions carry the most advertising, and has traditionally been a publisher's most profitable day by far. The AAM report only covers circulation, not revenue or profit, so it's unclear about the effect on each paper's bottom line.

Overall, the Strib has 500,189 Sunday buyers, down 2.4 percent from the March 2013 period. The Pioneer Press, with 272,413 print and digital replica buyers, was up 2.1 percent.

The St. Paul paper also reported 18,000 digital non-replica readers who use the paper's app; in the past, those have not been paid subscribers, though owner Digital First Media has begun to implement a pay wall. Including the 18,000 gives the PiPress a Sunday total of 290,413 readers, also up 2.1 percent from a year ago.

Digital circulation now makes up 22 percent of the PiPress's Sunday readers and 12 percent of the Strib's.

On weekdays, the Strib averaged 210,486 print buyers, down 7.6 percent. Digital replica sales fell 7.9 percent, to 45,685. However, digital-only weekday sales soared 88.4 percent, to 45,323. Overall, 30.2 percent of paying Strib weekday readers are digital.

The PiPress changed its weekday reporting period to Wednesday-Thurday (its two biggest weekdays) averaging 150,118. In comparison, roughly 75,000 pay for Monday and Tuesday print. The paper has long shifted subscribers from 7-day print to digital-only on slower sales days. Total Wednesday-Thursday sales hit 217,968, or 239,968 if you count all reported readers.

On Wednesday and Thursday, 31 percent of PiPress readers are digital; 37 percent if you count app readers.

Because of AAM rules, one subscriber could be counted three times, if she or he bought the print edition, paid for an e-replica, and purchased or used an app.

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