Circ: The Obama Factor

By: Mark Fitzgerald

In the year since last spring’s Fas-Fax, both Chicago dailies raised the cost of a newsstand paper, and paid the predictable price in circulation declines.

The Chicago Tribune reported that its daily circulation slipped 9.8% to 452,144 in a period when it raised its weekday single-copy price to $1 and boosted home-delivery rates as well. The Chicago Sun-Times, much more dependent on street sales, kicked up its own single-copy price to 75 cents from 50 cents. Its weekday cir fell 13.9% to 268,803.

But the paper’s say that price is not the whole story. They faced a daunting comparable with late 2008 because of the Obama phenomena.

Remember all those lines at the Sun-Times and people buying copies of the election and inauguration by the dozens? Remember Oprah Winfrey declaring on TV that the Sun-Times was her “favorite” paper?

It all added up, parent Sun-Times Media says.

“Most significantly, the comparative six-month period ended March 31, 2009 was heavily impacted by the 2008 presidential election which had a particularly strong effect and generated an unusually strong circulation boost for all Chicago-area newspapers with the election and inauguration of President Barack Obama,” the company said in a comment on the Audit Bureau of Circulations Fas-Fax results.

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