Web Pay Wall Doesn’t Lead to More Readers at ‘Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman has often credited the decision to put most of the paper’s Web content behind a pay wall for preventing the circulation erosion other metros have experienced. In recent Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) reporting periods, the Little Rock daily has actually gained circ.

But Monday’s FAS-FAX reported a slight decrease in Sunday and daily circulation. It was far less than most metros posted, but Hussman thinks Web sites — other people’s Web sites — may explain the drop.

Sunday circulation fell 0.6% to an average 274,494 for the six-month period ended March 31. Monday-through-Friday circulation was down 0.4% to 182,212.

“Our home delivery circulation is up, but single-copy sales are off, and the reason for the overall decrease,” Hussman told E&P. “The instant availability of news, for free, on desktops, laptops, Treos, iPhones, etc. — not to mentions multiple cable channels — is our best guess for the continuing softness in single copy. It is hard to compete with free.”

When it first launched its Web site, the Democrat-Gazette allowed unpaid access to most of its content. It put the great majority of its content behind a pay wall when circulation began to soften.

In the last ABC reporting period, the Democrat-Gazette grew weekday circulation by 1.2%, and Sunday circ by 0.4%.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story had a decimal point wrong on the Sunday circ, wrongly stating that it was down 6%, not .6 %.

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