Inquirer circulation readjusted lower

February 29, 2008 8:09:39 PM PST
The Philadelphia Inquirer's circulation numbers have been reduced after an adjustment by industry auditors. The Audit Bureau of Circulations cut the Inquirer's posted Sunday circulation by 15,718 to 670,022 for the 12 months ended April 1, 2007. The weekday circulation count was adjusted down by 392 to 341,384.

The change enlarges the Inquirer's Sunday circulation decline from the March 2006 audited report to 5.7 percent, instead of the previous 3.4 percent decline. The weekday circulation decline for the 12 months remained at about 3.6 percent.

The 15,718 reduction is unusually large in the newspaper industry, which typically sees audited numbers change within hundreds, not thousands, of copies, ABC said. The reduction was first reported by the trade publication Editor & Publisher.

Jay Devine, spokesman for Inquirer owner Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC, said ABC was unable to verify certain recipients of the paper in third-party circulation programs. These are programs in which a group might give a copy of the paper to their subscribers as a gift.

"We have records that people did receive the paper," Devine said. But ABC auditors "were not able to, in some instances, reach certain individuals to verify."

The change falls under the 3 percent threshold that would require ABC to issue a separate report on the discrepancy. A discrepancy of more than 5 percent automatically transfers the case to ABC's board of directors for possible censure of the paper.

The disagreement over third-party papers also has led ABC to reduce the Inquirer's posted circulation figures for the six months ended September 2007, which included the disputed copies.

For the April-September period, Sunday circulation was cut by 17,209 to 645,095, while the weekday average was adjusted down by 211 to 338,049.

Despite the downward adjustment, the weekday circulation still represented a 2.2 percent increase over the six months that ended September 2006.

Circulation numbers for the Philadelphia Daily News, also owned by Philadelphia Media Holdings, were unchanged after the audit.

In November, Philadelphia Media Holdings replaced its vice president of circulation. Mike Proebstle left after nearly six years at the company, but the reason for his departure was not disclosed.

The Inquirer had reported increases in weekday circulation for the last two six-month periods after three years of heavy declines.