May 8, 2014 Last Updated 2:12 pm

Newspapers show solid gains in digital circulation in latest Snapshot report…

…but then again, all of the top ten U.S. newspapers continue to show declines in print readership in latest report from the AAM

The latest Snapshot report for newspapers from the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) presents an interesting, if confusing look at what is happening to newspaper readership. It is at moments like this that I am glad that my own ownership of an ad agency was brief, and long before the era of digital advertising.

Because of the changing ways newspapers are presenting their readership numbers, based on new digital products, the newest report is somewhat uneven in appearance. Last fall, for instance, Gannett’s USA Today was able to claim that it was once again the nation’s largest circulation newspaper.

Newspaper-snapshot-3-14“The big jump,” the newspaper said at the time, “was largely attributable to 1.48 million counted in the paper’s “digital non-replica” category, which primarily refers to mobile and tablet apps.”

Actually, it was entirely attributable to the way it was then counting its digital editions. This change carries over to this month’s report, as well, and will continue to show the huge gains until the fall report when the newspaper will finally cycle over itself.

Because a few of the top newspapers can report huge increases in digital – mostly non-replica – circulation, the total gain in digital readership is a bit exaggerated. But it is real, nonetheless.

Of the top ten newspapers in the U.S., only The Washington Post and The Daily News (NY) showed little or no gains in digital readership. Overall, six of the top ten papers were able to claim some gain in total readership, thanks entirely to new digital circulation.

Print readership, though, continues to dive. Every single one of the top ten papers saw print readership decrease when looking at Monday through Friday circulation.

The New York Times, for instance, fell below 700K to 680,905.

Most of the top papers are now claiming far more non-replica digital circulation than replica edition. Of the top papers, only the WaPo, Belo’s Dallas Morning News, and Hearst’s Houston Chronicle are reporting more replica edition circulation. One intriguing question is how do newspapers, like the Post, which have an app that contains both a replica and non-replica edition count its circulation when it comes audit time?

Some papers have clearly made a good transition to digital as far as circulation is concerned. The NT now can claim more than double the digital circulation that it has in print, while Hearst and the Tribune Company continue somewhat behind.

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