Is Miami Herald Hiding True Circulation Plunge?

April 28th, 2009 8:46 AM
There seems to be an interesting rule of thumb lately in the newspaper business. Whenever a publisher delivers a pep talk about how well they are doing or about their future plans for improvement, it always signals bad news in the near future. And the more fervent the pep talk, the steeper the circulation plunge. This certainly has proved true with the Miami Herald. Here is a video from late March of the Herald publisher, David Landsberg, boldly promising better things in the future for that ailing newspaper:

We've all been dealing with a pretty steady diet of difficult financial news over the last few months. The Miami Herald Media company has taken actions to make sure that we can weather this financial downturn. We've got the largest reporting staff of any news organization in all of South Florida. Our readers tell us we make a difference in their lives and that is really important to us. The Miami Herald's commitment to South Florida won't change. That's something everyone can count on.

This video message came on the heels of a similar message published in the Herald. So what was the reality of "weathering" the financial downturn? Even steeper circulation declines than were expected. Despite the fact that the Spring figures for the six months ending March 31 showed an average newspaper decline of 7%, the Herald plunged an astounding 15.8% according to Editor & Publisher.

However, terrible as that circulation decline is, it might be even worse according to McClatchy Watch:

Figures released today from the Audit Bureau of Circulations show The Miami Herald has dropped by at least 38,000 in the past year. The numbers:

  • Daily circulation at The Miami Herald as of 3/31/08: 240.223
  • Daily circulation at The Miami Herald as of 3/31/09: 202,122
Now, something is fishy about the latest number released by the Herald.

Last month I said this:
In a published report yesterday, Miami Herald reporter Andres Viglucci pegged daily circulation numbers for the the Miami Herald at "around 190,000."
The "around 190,000" amount is ten thousand less than the official number the Herald reported to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The March piece by Miami Herald reporter Andres Viglucci listing the "around 190,000" has conveniently disappeared. 404'd after a month?? But I caught it, and so did Bill at Random Pixels.

So was Vigluccis's "around 190,000" figure wrong, or did the Herald inflate the number it sent to the Audit Bureau of Circulations?
Your humble correspondent is wondering if reporting that the circulation had plunged below the 200,000 mark was just too painful for the Miami Herald to face. However, the Herald advertisers would probably like to know the truth about the real circulation figures. After all, their ad rates are based on the reported circulation.

Hopefully fake circulation reporting isn't part of the actions that David Landsberg proclaimed were taken to "weather this financial downturn."