Paul Rolly: Deseret News circulation stats: smoke and mirrors

Published June 2, 2014 7:03 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Delta resident recently found a curious inclusion in his weekly Millard County Chronicle Progress, which he has subscribed to for years.

He didn't ask for it. He's not paying extra for it. But about two months ago, his beloved weekly began coming with an inserted Deseret News National Edition.

Millard County isn't the only place in Utah whose weekly began including this insert.

An editor of a rural county weekly told me that paper hasn't decided whether to accept the Deseret News' offer of including its National Edition. It wouldn't cost the paper much to include the insert. But it would increase the paper's weight and, consequently, its bulk-mailing costs.

On the other hand, the editor noted, most county residents are Mormon and the National Edition relies heavily on LDS and faith-based features. So it might boost circulation.

How generous of the Deseret News to offer Utah weeklies this insert for basically nothing.

Or is it?

The News, according to a May 18 Salt Lake Tribune story about the circulation war between the two Salt Lake City-based papers, includes its National Edition (and the LDS Church News) in its Sunday circulation figures.

Those circulation figures have become key to a debate about recent changes in the newspapers' joint operating agreement (JOA) that shifts profit from 58 percent to 42 percent in favor of The Tribune (based on its superior circulation rates) to 70-30 for the News.

The new agreement was made between the Deseret News and The Tribune's hedge fund owner, Alden Global Capital, without input from local Tribune management.

Critics argue the agreement will kill The Tribune, even though it dominates prime-market print circulation.

But wait. The Deseret News' reported Sunday circulation numbers show that it is outperforming The Tribune, so it deserves those increased profits.

The Tribune reports a Sunday print edition circulation of 80,818. The Deseret News reports 109,330.

But the latter includes about 75,000 issues of the practically given-away National Edition that goes mostly out of state and now to Utah weeklies. Without that, the News' Sunday print is about 30,000, less than half The Tribune's.

A new support group • The Mormons for Obama Facebook page (yes, there is one) recently posted the group's take on the new JOA.

After I noted in a recent column that the Deseret News refused to run an ad by utahnewspaperproject.org, an advocacy group dedicated to the continued existence of two newspapers in Salt Lake City, I was contacted by one of its members.

The Provo woman told me the commenters on the page are rallying around The Tribune and pulling for its survival. Otherwise, she laments, Utahns might be stuck with just the Deseret News.




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