Circ drops continue to plague paid news outlets

Almost all paid-news pubs saw declines in average circulation while free dailies registered increases across Canada, according to the latest CCAB report.

Circulation at the Toronto Star continues to show a downward trajectory, felling internal expectations that the publisher would see a rise in subscriptions once its tablet edition debuted.

The Canadian Circulation Audits Board (CCAB) has released circulation data for the fourth quarter of 2015, measuring 41 paid and non-paid member newspapers for the period between October and December 2015. The membership-based auditing body sees the departure of one of its titles, the Guelph Mercury after the newspaper announced its decision to stop printing last month.

Overall, of the 31 paid daily newspapers saw declines in average paid circulation, with the exception of small increases at the Waterloo Region Record, the Standard Freeholder in Cornwall, the Hamilton Spectator and the Ottawa Sun. The Toronto Sun and the Journal de Montreal saw both increases and decreases depending on the day of the week.

Conversely, free dailies saw an increase in average total circulation in almost all markets, with the exception of small declines for the weekend edition of the Toronto-based Chinese language daily, Epoch Times, as well as small declines for the weekend editions of Metro in the Calgary and Edmonton markets.

According to the report, the Toronto Star has seen a continued decline in subscriptions since the previous quarterly report. The newspapers average paid weekday circulation is now 170,014 down from 171,674 at the end of September 2015, and registering a 3% decline since the quarter ended June 30, 2015.

Weekend circ numbers have also fallen from 277,750 to 272,942 on Saturday and from 190,191 to 186,721 on Sundays.

The Toronto Sun saw a small increase in its weekday circulation. In this latest quarter it registered a weekday paid average circulation of 86,474, up from 86,462. Conversely, weekend circulation showed a tiny increase from 80,194 to 80,476 on Saturdays and a decrease from 95,172 to 95,071 on Sundays.

Having lost its relationship with Gateway Newstands to distribute its free daily in the Toronto subway system, Metro not only lost its top position in the free-daily circulation report but saw a 4,000 drop in its total average circulation since Q2 (the paper did not report data for Q3). Sun Media’s 24 Hours took its place, registering an average total weekly circulation of 210,293, a 2.2% increase since Q3 after it won the Gateway contract. Metro posted an average total weekly circulation of 208,210. The numbers show that Metro‘s strategy to deliver newspapers to commuters through individuals standing outside the stations did not result in the 3% to 5% hike in circulation that it expected, but rather a 3.3% decline when numbers for June are taken into account.

However, Metro still retains its position for the weekend average total circulation registering 218, 937, compared with 213, 381 for 24 Hours, which saw a gain of 2.5% in average total weekend circulation for the period between September and December. 

In Vancouver, Metro retained its top position and experienced an increase in average weekly circulation from 110,344 to 112,676 while 24 Hours also saw an increase from 108,160 to 110,601 between Q3 and Q4.

In Montreal, where only one paid newspaper is measured, QMI’s Le Journal de Montreal experienced a paid average weekday circulation increase from 171,560 to 174,409. This increase follows the announcement of the closure of La Presse‘s print edition. A further increase in numbers can be expected in Q1 of 2016.

Sun Media’s Ottawa Sun saw a small increase its paid average weekday circulation from 25,923 at the end of Q3 to 26,149.