Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Palm Beach Post circulation: the numbers might surprise you

Last Monday wrote about The Palm Beach Post circulation numbers and how surprised I was. The Post reported in last Sunday's paper that two of their reporters were up for awards "in the category for newspapers with circulation of less than 150,000". A search turned up the Newspaper Data Exchange, or NDX, for short. They report the print circulation for the Post is approximately 85,000.

NDX provides this background:
For over a decade, newspaper circulation has been a topic of lively conversation for the media industry and its stakeholders. Beginning with circulation scandals and the heightened accountability they provoked, significant declines in print circulation and the new product development that followed, and the emergence of the ‘multi-platform’ newspaper, traditional weekday and Sunday paid print circulation has gone from ‘the’ story to an increasingly less prominent part of the evolving story of newspaper circulation. And yet, for a large group of marketers for whom traditional print circulars remain a primary driver of store traffic and sales, that aspect of the larger story is still of primary importance. 
This information from NDX is really quite interesting.

The circulation numbers of a long list of newspapers from 2013 and 2014 are broken down with numbers of print papers and digital access. Using only the print numbers from 2014 this will give you some idea how the Post stacks up in the industry:
  • Wall Street Journal: 1,356,292
  • Tampa Bay Times: 217,597
  • "South Florida" Sun-Sentinel: 115,172
  • "West" Palm Beach Post: 85,043
This is where it gets interesting. The total number of subscribers to the Post in 2014, both print and digital was 105,335. How many subscribers, such as myself, are counted twice? No doubt many people subscribe to the Post with offers which include both print and on-line access. The data from NDX doesn't break this information down for any newspaper. In other words, if you get the paper delivered and also have on-line access, you're counted twice. If this conclusion is inaccurate please feel free to comment.

Here are the numbers for the Post in 2014 compared to 2013 (the first set of numbers is print and the second digital):

2014: 85,043
2013: 93,759
Percent change: -9.3%

2014: 20,292
2013: 7,653
Percent change: +165.2%

From the numbers above it's hard not to see the trend. As NDX points out, the issue of newspaper circulation is extraordinarily complex. The data is crucial to advertisers and many others as well.

Recently I had communication with a person on the Post editorial board and was told, and this is paraphrasing, that the City of Lake Worth was not adequately covered by the paper. Which begs the question: how many other towns and city's are not adequately covered. The last reporter here, who was more an intern than a reporter, was Chris Persaud. Before that was Lona O'Connor who took a buyout and left. Before that was Willy Howard who also took a buyout (he writes articles now and then for the Coastal Star).

What we'll never know are intangibles such as news reporting and how that affects advertising. And of course, there's always the politics. How much influence does The Palm Beach Post really have and are they being given too much credit in the public debate here in Palm Beach County? And my issue with the Post, should they be making endorsements if they don't know what's going on?

The numbers are very surprising to me and I bet many others are surprised also.