The Boston Globe today hits the Boston Herald where it hurts — reporting not just that the Herald’s circulation, like the Globe’s (and like most newspapers), is plummeting, but that its numbers are squishy-soft.
According to figures compiled by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) and reported by the Globe, the Herald’s weekday circulation fell by 4 percent, from 240,759 to 230,543, compared to the same six-month period a year earlier. On Sunday, the situation at One Herald Square is much worse: circulation is down nearly 14 percent, from 152,813 to 131,833.
But that’s not the heart of Robert Gavin’s Globe article. Here’s the real shot across Herald publisher Pat Purcell’s bow:
[T]he Herald has been relying increasingly on so-called bulk sales to bolster circulation. In those sales, single parties, such as a hotel, school, airline, or other business, buy many papers, typically at a discount, and distribute them, often for free. Bulk sales accounted for 19 percent of the Herald’s daily circulation, or almost one in five papers.
Traditionally, advertisers have looked less favorably on bulk sales, because it’s difficult to track how many papers end up in the hands of readers, and who those readers are, industry specialists said. Bulk buyers must pay at least 25 percent of the papers’ basic price in order to be counted as paid circulation….
The 19 percent of the Herald’s daily circulation accounted for by bulk sales was up from 11 percent a year ago. In contrast, the Globe cut its daily bulk sales by 37 percent, and they accounted for only about 7 percent of daily circulation, compared to 10 percent a year ago.
The Herald has been slamming the Globe’s circulation woes since Oct. 20, when the Globe’s corporate parent, the New York Times Co., released ABC figures showing that the Globe’s circulation was down by about 8 percent on weekdays and on Sunday. Just this past Saturday, the Herald’s Jesse Noyes poked fun at a New York-area circulation drive apparently aimed at selling Globes to Yankees fans.
The Globe, meanwhile, has not exactly been shy about flogging the latest rumors that the Herald and its suburban community-newspaper chain may be for sale.
Coming tomorrow: The Herald fights back?