Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A closer look at Sentinel's numbers

Yesterday was a big day of loss at the Orlando Sentinel, but only one of many previous days. Whether the Sentinel's management wants you to know it or not the newspaper (newsroom, editorial board and all) has been shrinking for a while now. 

To put things in perspective: When the newspaper first moved into its current location at 633 N. Orange Ave, they had 1,200 employees. About 4-5 years ago, the paper had a staff of 1,300 people. Currently, the Orlando Sentinel as an entire paper has less than 1000 employees and a staff of less 250 people in its newsroom.

Along with loss of employees, most people would think its fair to say the Sentinel's circulation has shrunk as well. Yet, on the front page the paper boasts "reaching 1.2 million weekly in print and online". While, it can be noted that the same subscript used to say 1.3 million (so it reflects some change), the numbers are still questionable. 

In the newspaper business, the numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) are pretty much the only ones that matter. Those are basically the numbers that matter to advertisers and basically the only definite numbers of a paper's readership. It can be assumed that more than one person read each copy of the newspaper, but nobody has any proof. In the Sentinel's case the only proven number of readers- its circulation- were recorded by the ABC as follows:
Monday- Friday: 227,593
Saturday: 225,275
Sunday: 332,030

No matter which way you use the averages of those numbers, you do not get anything near to 1.2 million people definitely reading the paper.

Yet, the Sentinel is most likely boasting its readership (an indefinite number). The paper admittedly includes people (reading, randomly clicking) online in its readership, which could work if those people read the online version as a newspaper. But how can anyone tell? How does the know whether these people are actual readers? Are they counting computer cookies? If so, then aren't one time vistors and people checking backlinks being included in readership? How many stories does a visitors have to read to be counted as readership? Do they even make sure those people read any stories? 

I would love to know how their boasted readership is calculated. Because if they are being at all loose with numbers, then that's a big fat mislead on the top of the newspaper.

So, who are these 1.2 million?


Anonymous said...

it's not circulation -- it's readership. The print edition's circulation may be only around 215,000 daily, but readership is almost 3 times that. That means 1 paper in a household may reach 2,3 or 4 people. It's the same at all newspapers. The online number is much more reliable of course. That's more like 150,000 people a day. So the Sentinel must be claiming more than 1 million people see the print edition a day, with the extra 150k from online.

and just a side note, the ABC sets circ and that's what advertisers care about, but sales staff can sell against the readership numbers which are done outside the ABC. So both numbers are useful, but not everything relies on the ABC.

Anonymous said...

Before mouthing off, you should do a little research. Here's a primer on what "readership" means:

Anonymous said...

Read what you have there again. It says 1.2 million readers WEEKLY.

For former editors and or news hounds you sure do miss simple facts.

I think you guys need to get a life away from the Sentinel.

I doubt you'll keep this online, as it clearly shows your malice.

Anonymous said...

Hi, all:

Here are the Orlando Sentinel circulation numbers from ABC for the six-month period ended March 31:

Sunday: 332,030
Saturday: 225,275
Mon-Fri: 227,593

BTW, all the Canwest papers in Canada offered voluntary buyouts last year. I took one. It was pretty generous: three weeks for every year of service, to a maximum of 78 weeks. About 200 people left the various big-city papers. Some pagination work for the Ottawa Citizen is done by cheaper nonunion labor in Hamilton (near Toronto), and I heard recently that the National Post is paginated in India.

Anonymous said...

As a reader I am interested in NEWS - I do not care for the new Sunday real estate section as it has no NEWS, no information, it is simply paid advertising - who wants to read that. I have always been a cover to cover reader. But there is nothing to READ only ads. So if I subscribe but do not read am I "readership"? If I am not in the market for a car and throw that section in my recycle bin am I still "readership"? Tell your advertising folks not to count me as all I want is NEWS.