Published on Tuesday, 01 May 2012 21:59
Circulation figures for Chicago's two largest newspapers came out today, showing an increase for the Chicago Sun-Times and a decrease for the Chicago Tribune. According to those numbers, this makes the Sun-Times the #1 Chicago newspaper and #9 in the country, while the Tribune falls to #2 in Chicago and #10 in the country. However, the numbers can be deceiving.
According to a report released early today by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Sun-Times and all of its suburban newspapers combined, as well as all of those newspaper's digital/website subscriptions, showed a daily circulation of 422,335 for the six month period ending on March 31st. That is a 0.7% increase over the circulation of 419,408 from the year before.
The Chicago Tribune and its suburban newspapers combined, along with its digital subscriptions (mainly for archived stories and special reproductions -- it does not yet have a full digital subscription program) had a daily circulation of 414,590 for the six month period ending March 31st. This is a decline of 5.17% over last year's number of 437,205.
With today's results, the Chicago Sun-Times now makes a huge leap up and into the Top 10 rankings for all US newspapers. It claims the #9 spot held by the Chicago Tribune last year, knocking the Chicago Tribune down to #10.
The Top 10 newspapers ranked by circulation now are:
1. Wall Street Journal
2. USA Today
3. New York Times
4. Los Angeles Times
5. New York Daily News
6. San Jose Mercury News
7. New York Post
8. Washington Post
9. Chicago Sun-Times
10. Chicago Tribune
Last year, Sun-Times Media Holdings decided to unite all of its many newspapers
as part of one brand name. The numerous suburban newspapers that Sun-Times Media publishes added a logo and the words "An edition of the Chicago Sun-Times" to the top of each of the newspapers. This was done to increase its circulation numbers by combining all of the papers into one number. The Chicago Tribune had already been doing this with its suburban newspapers.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) -- a non-profit, independent organization that provides accurate audits of print circulation, readership and website activity for the newspaper industry -- made that change allowing newspapers with identical ownership in the same market area to combine their circulations as a group, in order to allow papers to have higher circulation numbers for the main purposes of attracting more advertisers.
There are exceptions, issues, and oddities with these numbers, however, and all is not quite as it seems.
The Chicago Sun-Times daily print circulation actually fell in this six month period, down to 200,503 in its core market. However, in December, the newspaper instituted an online subscription program, so in order to see beyond 20 page views, a digital subscription was needed. The paper gained 68,986 digital subscriptions, which counts as part of the daily circulation numbers reported to the ABC. Additionally, a good portion of those digital subscriptions belong to print subscribers, as well, which means many of those almost 69,000 digital subscribers are counted twice.
For the Chicago Tribune, it is not allowed to count the circulation numbers of its daily newspaper RedEye, since the paper is a free publication. Also, the Chicago Tribune and its suburban newspapers do not yet have a paywall/digital subscription program in place. Though its websites gain more web traffic, those free users are not allowed to be counted in its daily numbers, giving the Sun-Times a big advantage.
That particular advantage may be a temporary one, as the Chicago Tribune is looking at installing its own website paywall for its Chicagoland newspapers' websites within the next few weeks, according to insiders. A similar digital paywall system was recently started
at sister-newspaper, the Los Angeles Times.
For Sunday newspapers, the Chicago Tribune is still king locally. The average Sunday circulation for the Chicago Tribune was 779,440, ranking it #4 nationwide. The Chicago Sun-Times' average Sunday circulation was 434,861, giving it a ranking of #15 nationally.
The entire ABC report featuring the semi-annual circulation numbers for the top newspapers in America can be seen HERE