Ever since tapping out his first story on an upright Remington as a cadet reporter on the now-defunct Betoota Bugle, LOUIS JARNT has had ink running through his veins. Since then his scoops and post-lunch exploits have acquired legendary status up and down the length of Fleet Street (Burpengary). A passionate advocate of free speech and free tickets to whatever new movie, stage show or other event is hitting town, he continues to keep an eye on the mainstream media for readers of The Independent.
Whenever you go down, what automatically goes up?
That’ll be enough out of you, sir! This is a serious media analysis section, not some flippant sex questionnaire.
We are, or course, referring to newspaper circulations and readership.
Whenever a paper’s circulation goes down - or should that read each time a paper’s circulation invariably goes down? - somehow miraculously for the paper and its advertisers, readership goes up.
Well, not always but close enough to being a universal truth.
Doubt this? The latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures for the final quarter of 2009 had The Courier-Mail doing what it does best – haemorrhaging sales in the one part of the country that everyone seems to be coming to to live, namely south-east Queensland.
The figures showed the Monday to Friday circulation of Brisbane’s only mass-media daily was 211,230, a slump of almost 2 per cent in the quarter. Big brother, the Saturday edition, fared even worse, recording sales of 288,924 in the same period, a drop of 2.4 per cent.
Awful news for advertisers hit with the Courier’s hefty ad rates perhaps but was management worried? Of course not - there’s always the Roy Morgan Research readership figures to trumpet soon after.
Strength in readership, the paper’s headline declared on cue and on page 7 on February 19, a week after the bad circulation news broke.
It reported the joyous news that readership on Saturdays over much the same period (September to December for that audit) rose by 30,000, an increase of 3.7 per cent.
See what we meant above?
You sell 2.4 per cent less, and rather amazingly 3.7 per cent more read you! How this works is anyone’s guess but one thing is clear: if the Courier didn’t print at all, their readership figures could be astronomical!
And in the clever use of words that the Courier seems so very good at when putting the best possible light on all things them, the Monday to Friday readership was “stable”.
“Stable” probably means it went down a little. If it had gone up - as these things normally do - presumably it was by such a piddly amount that even the Courier couldn't think of words to give it a positive gloss.
That’s the other basic tenant of such figures. Avoid running bad figures if you possibly can. Put the best possible light on the ones you do.
Not that it matters a great deal. When the paper puts up its rates come July 1, who can disgruntled advertisers turn to?
By the way and just purely for interest, The Independent in March 2008 reported on a big drop of 5.27 per cent in the sales of the Saturday edition of the Courier in the last quarter of 2007.
The circulation two years ago was 305,215 – more than 16,000 than it is now.
To be fair to The Courier-Mail - and we always are – there was a different way of measuring such things back then. There was also a slightly stronger south-easterly breeze about in that quarter, from memory. And the summer whiting that recreational anglers were catching down by the bay were on average a few centimetres larger then they are now.
So as you can see, nothing is quite as big as it used to be way back when, and I’m sure The Courier-Mail takes some comfort from that. As they do from those readership figures that constantly spiral upwards, regardless of dwindling circulations.