Falling circulation leads Business Post to restrict website

For the past number of weeks the Sunday Business Post has delayed publication of its online edition until 6pm each Sunday evening. Other than a brief statement on the front page of the website stating “The online edition of the Sunday Business Post now uploads at 6pm on Sunday” no explanation is given to readers for the change in policy.

Todays Business Post - not available till 6pm today
Today's Business Post - not available online till 6pm

The independent ABC-audited circulation figures for newspapers in Ireland are released each half year. The most recent average circulation figures for the Post released for the six months ending December 2008 (54,993) show a decline in circulation of 1.7% on the previous six months (55,971). Furthermore, circulation figures for the months of October (60,394), November (57,872) and December (56,407) show a continuous downward movement for the paper.

Meanwhile, in the period January to March 2009, traffic to the Post’s online edition rose sharply as can be seen from the trend graph taken from Alexa.com, an independent source of information on website performance worldwide:

Sunday Business Post traffic rank - Alexa.com
A steady increase in traffic to the Post website in the early part of 2009 ended abruptly in mid-March when the website policy changed – Source: Alexa.com

The Post is well aware of the economics of running a newspaper business. Given the amount of coverage within its pages in the past while on the turmoil that this business is in with falling advertising spend (here, here, here and another one today for which the link will not be available until 6pm) it is clear that the editorial team places the blame squarely on the Internet for falling circulation figures. Online advertising revenues pale in comparison to the revenues newspapers have seen over the past number of years from printed advertising.

The Post has clearly taken the approach of delaying publication online until Sunday evening, in the hope that the growing numbers of its readers who were switching to the free online edition would switch back to the paid-for print edition.

There are other approaches that newspaper can take. Journalist Mark Coughlan highlights on his blog how the Guardian newspaper in the UK is embracing its online readership by providing readers with comment facilities, live-blogging and multi-media news reports. According to an article in today’s Post, the Guardian’s website attracted 29.8 million unique users in January 2009 as compared with a print circulation of 350,000.

Perhaps our own Post’s current approach is precipitating a significant investment in their online that will be revealed later in the year? The writing is surely on the wall.

5 thoughts on “Falling circulation leads Business Post to restrict website

  1. interesting – would have that thought the SBP could have weathered the last 6 months or so pretty well with the long tail of recession?

    for example – a comment from one of our local newasgents here on FT sales – “running out the door”.

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  2. Smart move would be for TCM/TCH to invest in a seriously good website and use Examiner for Daily news and SBP for Sunday coverage.

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  3. Hi Brendan,

    I’m not normally one to beat our corporate drum, but just to note that the SBP’s (or any paper’s) readership isn’t interpreted on a month-to-month basis, but on a year-to-basis (ask any advertiser or media pro).
    For example, if sales go down in August or December (which they do for all papers), that doesn’t translate into a general readership decline.

    The only way to measure accurately is: did the paper sell more copies in 2008 than in 2007?

    Alas, the ABC figure for 2008 for the SBP was over 55,000. In 2007, it was just shy of 54,000.

    The sales of the paper are growing, not declining. And it’s one of only two or three papers that is growing, too. Maybe it’s something to do with Kevin’s comment above. In a time of financial crisis, a paper like the SBP is probably more popular.

    Anyway, I know that kind of torpedoes your post’s main message, but thought I’d throw it in anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

    (You’re right about falling ad spend, though, it’s a real problem for all media right now.)

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  4. Mark, yes there are certainly other approaches for bringing in uptodate content that don’t have to rely on internal resources. To be fair they do have a breaking business news section that updates during the week.

    Adrian, great to get an inside perspective and good to hear that circulation continues to climb. If the website is not actually impacting on newsagent sales, would you mind letting the powers that be know that some of your loyal customers would like the website switched back on each Sunday morning ๐Ÿ™‚

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