First Post-Scandal Audit Shows Falling Circ At 'Sun-Times'

By: Mark Fitzgerald Last month, metro dailies relived a poor fall and winter of 2006-07 with the release of the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX report.

Friday, the Chicago Sun-Times relived a bad 2005 as ABC released the second of four "censure audits" following the discovery that the tabloid massively overstated its circulation from 2002 until the escalating fraud was discovered by John Cruickshank when he became publisher in 2004.

The reports for the six-month periods ended March 27, 2005, and Sept. 25, 2005 show the paper lost 8.6% of its weekday circulation and 15.7% of its Sunday circ during the year.

Year-over-year comparisons with 2004 are impossible because figures for those years have not yet been released. At nearly all dailies, the March reporting period is the stronger one for newspaper sales.

By September 2005, the audits show, Sun-Times Sunday circulation had fallen below the 300,000 mark for the first time, to 281,129.

Weekday circ in the September 05 reporting period was 349,968, down 32,828 copies from March.

The audit show that the Sun-Times began dropping third-party, Newspaper In Education (NIE) and other "other circulation," during 2005. The paper was following an industry trend that was kicked off during the year by complaints, from Wall Street analysts and some advertisers, that "other" circulation was not "quality" circulation.

Sun-Times "other" circulation fell by more than half on weekdays during the year, to 15,422 from 34,387. On Sundays, the drop was even steeper, falling to 10,774 from 49,330.

Sunday third-party sales plunged to 7,100 in September from 45,019.

Sun-Times spokesperson Tammy Chase said the paper regards the results as "in line with what the industry's doing" on weekdays.

She noted that paid single-copy sales, which are more than half of the total circulation fell at a slower pace, dropping 3% during the year.

The Sun-Times ultimately paid out $31.8 million in cash and ad space to compensate advertisers for the circulation fraud, which grew to as many as 50,000 copies on an average weekday.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here