By: Mark Fitzgerald
Newspaper closures, home delivery stoppages — and a plan to report three San Francisco Bay Area dailies as if they were one giant paper — are likely to make the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ Fas-Fax that comes out Monday the most confounding yet.
When the Audit Bureau of Circulations adopted a series of rule changes taking effect with the March 2011 reporting period, many in the industry figured these final two periods would be the last in which the growth — or, more likely, decline — of circ could be easily tracked against past performance.
But newspapers and advertisers are likely to discover Monday that the days of easy comparisons are already over.
The unaudited Fas-Fax that is released Monday will reflect the dramatic events of the past year — newspapers folding, discontinuing some home delivery and more — that makes direct comparisons to year-ago figures impossible.
Perhaps the most dramatic change will come as a direct result of a circulation/advertising strategy that will catapult the San Jose Mercury News
— listed number 33 among the nation’s dailies in the E&P International Year Book — into the top 10.
Perhaps well into the top 10.
In a little-noticed move by MediaNews Group’s Bay Area News Group, on Jan. 1 the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times became editions of the San Jose Mercury News — which will report their combined circulation as its own. The Tribune and Contra Costa Times will report circ only through Dec. 31, 2009.
Philadelphia’s dailies did something similar in March 2009, with the Philadelphia Daily News officially becoming a print edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. There will be no comparable year-over-year weekday data for the Inquirer in this Fas-Fax.
Year-over-year comparisons are also out in Detroit, where, at the end of the March 2009 reporting period, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press ended print home delivery on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Subscribers can access an electronic edition those days and print copies are available at as single-copy sales.
For Monday’s Fas-Fax, the News and Freep will continue Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press will continue to report a Monday-Friday weekday average, ABC said. “In the Excel version of FAS-FAX, the newspapers will also report a separate Thursday-Friday average that reflects their print home-delivery circulation,” the Arlington Heights, Ill.-based bureau said.
Because of the Feb. 28, 2009, folding of the Rocky Mountain News, whose subscriber file was transferred to the Denver Post, the Post will not have a year-over-year comparison.