Circulation Numbers Questioned at Brown Publishing

By: E&P Staff

Discussion at a January 2008 meeting of executives at Brown Publishing Co. — recently bought out of bankruptcy by owner Roy Brown and two other Brown Publishing executives — included the matter of “inflated” and “fabricated” circulations at three of the group’s Ohio newspapers.

According to an Aug. 7 Dayton Daily News report by staff writers Matt Sanctis and Tom Beyerlein, major advertisers were pressing Brown’s papers in Troy, Piqua and Sidney to verify the circulation figures with an independent audit.

Audit Bureau of Circulations spokeswoman Kammi Altig tldo the Dayton reporters that the three papers in question withdrew from the bureau in spring 2005.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Brown’s holdings include at least a dozen newspapers in nearby Dayton.

In a document presented at the meeting, the Dayton paper reported, Sidney Daily News Advertising Manager Becky Smith presented the problem of either having an audit that reveals lower-than-stated circulations, “which will greatly affect overall preprint revenues,” or refusing an audit, in which advertisers might make good on threats to pull ads.

Group Publisher Frank Beeson, who oversees the Troy, Piqua and Sidney papers, reportedly said in a written presentation at the meeting that major retailers’ concern was growing “regarding the validity of our ‘claimed’ daily circulation in each of the three markets.” An executive who handled advertising for the three papers until 2007 told the Dayton Daily News that circulation numbers were a concern before Beeson’s became group publisher.

Reached by telephone, Brown Chief Financial Officer Joseph Ellingham told the two Dayton reporters he was unaware of inflated circulation numbers and he denied the authenticity of the document, of copy of which was obtrained by the Dayton paper.

Sanctis and Beyerlein, however, reported that two others at the meeting, asking to remain anonymous, affirmed both the meeting’s discussion of inflated circulations and the document’s authenticity.

The Dayton Daily News further noted that Brown’s Website was showing current circulation numbers as 10,900 for the Troy Daily News, 12,410 for the Miami Valley Sunday News and 13,250 for the Sidney Daily News — all exceeding the reportedly inflated numbers in the 2008 document.

The Website, however, links to a “Newspapers Coverage Areas” PDF document, on the second page of which circulations are lower than those cited by the Dayton Daily News.

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