In reporting on the newspaper business, there are few matters more obscure or maddening than determining paid digital circulation. My example for this morning is the Burlington Free Press, a Gannett-owned daily that, I wrote recently, will soon be printed in either Auburn, Massachusetts,
Worcester or Providence, hours away from its home base in northern Vermont.
The change is the result of the giant newspaper chain’s decision to shut its printing plant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which will affect several other papers as well. Gannett’s standard defense of moves like this is that they’re shifting to digital, so print doesn’t matter that much. But as I observed at the time, the Free Press sells more than twice as many print papers as it does digital subscriptions.
My item prompted someone to send me a “confidential and internal” Gannett circulation report.