“The trilling wire in the blood/sings below inveterate scars/appeasing long-forgotten wars.” —T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets
Some would say local interest is high for the audited circulation figures for the Santa Barbara News-Press, due out October 30. The N-P, like virtually all dailies in the United States, has had declining numbers since 2004 — and has been claiming a daily circulation of 41,000 in each of their many press releases since July 6. But the accurate figures are more complicated.
The last reported figures for News-Press circulation, as of March 31, 2006, reveal a Total Average Paid Circulation of 42,375 Sunday, 42,145 Monday through Friday. Buried within those two impressive numbers, there is a component labeled “Other Paid Circulation,” which for the N-P is 4,505 Mon-Fri, and 1,551 Sunday. These are copies sold in bulk to hotels, employee programs, schools, and other third party sponsors.
Advertisers have recently come to realize a great deal of “padding” could be obtained via these seemingly worthy distribution outlets. As such, from the September 19 edition of Editor and Publisher:
“While these techniques are not outright fraud as the  misstatements of circulation figures were, we felt aggressive use of some of these lower-quality techniques would signal a problem with circulation and would therefore pose future risk to advertising rate stability,” wrote analysts in the study. [The study referenced is by Prudential Equity Research of the top 50 papers in the U.S. ]
If national trends are any indication, A Local Daily will have little justification to initiate its annual rate increase, in spite of the “setting the record straight” realpolitick of A Local Blonde during the height of the N-P diaspora.
Virtually all the big players on the national daily newspaper scene are going to take a hit on circulation, according to E&P’s early look at the Audit Bureau of Circulations figures:
Earlier this week, E&P reported that overall circulation data for the upcoming FAS-FAX are trending much like past reporting periods, with industry sources expecting daily down 2.5% and Sunday down 3%, and some major metros are reporting record losses. Now we have the actual numbers for several papers.
I venture few of those national papers had a city wide effort to cancel their subscriptions, or citizen protests outside their offices to add to the Diminishment of the Daily paper.
And from an E&P story on the 2005 Prudential report:
In the most recent study, Prudential found that other paid circulation, which is comprised of hotel, newspapers-in-education (NIE), employee, and third-party sales copies, was up 6.9%. As a contrast, for the period ending September 2004, other-paid circulation was up 34.2%. However, the report notes that even though there’s a reduction in the reliance in other paid circ, the category is still “stemming the losses in home delivery and single-copy sales.”Overall, total daily circ decreased 2.7% in March when compared to the same period last year. Home delivered copies dropped 2.7%. Discounted copies were up 85%. Single-copy sales slipped 7.1%. This category acts as a barometer for the health of the industry because “it’s the most basic example of a consumer actively seeking out the newspaper,” the report said.
It must be said that giving away papers ain’t no bad thing; for the past 20 years The Independent has pioneered that concept in Santa Barbara. As the foundation of our economic viability, our company has treated free circulation seriously, subscribing to a VAC, an independent auditing company for the same amount of time. We are the only audited freebie in town.
Keeping accurate track of numbers has eluded A Local Daily paper for quite some time, in spite of the historical record [a great place to begin is here, for an exhaustive examination of the N-P antecedents], as evidenced by the erroneous tagline on the front page Banner, “Our 151st Year.” The origin of what is now called the “Santa Barbara News-Press” properly begins October 20, 2000.
Contest: Everyone In the Pool! My pick for the final audit number (this will be the total number for Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carp, Montecito, Summerland, Buellton/Santa Ynez, Gaviota): 38,576
The reader’s entry closest to the actual total will win a cool prize, and be memorialized in some nifty, as yet undetermined fashion — probably not a subscription to A Local Daily. Contest ends October 29, 12 am (or when the actual results are made public).
The name of this piece is: Lest any unsuspecting SBMB reader wrongly consider Club Reporter a verse-spouting repository of all things culture‘d, I just happen to love the eponymous BBC America series, starring the ab fab Robson Green. And the quote is apt.