New survey yields good news for newspaper you're reading


POSTED: Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reports of the newspaper industry's death are greatly exaggerated, at least, in some cases, according to readership survey results from Scarborough Research.

Most newspapers' readership around Hawaii is down year over year, the survey shows.

Sampling 1,634 Oahu residents and projecting the results to a universe of 701,036 readers, readership of the daily and Sunday Honolulu Star-Bulletin is up more than 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

Readership of MidWeek, its sister publication, is also up more than 10 percent.

The most recent Scarborough research was conducted from April of 2008 to March 2009 and do not reflect readership of the Star-Bulletin's new compact format, which debuted April 13.

Additionally, “;if you look at single-copy sales (of the Star-Bulletin) compared to last year, they're up,”; said Dennis Francis, president and publisher of Oahu Publications Inc., the parent company of the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek. Daily sales fluctuate but are up “;from 7 percent to as much as 15 percent,”; he said.

The paper's home-delivery base has been growing pretty nicely for about a year and a half, he said.

Asked whether readers' concerns about the economy or desire to find deals and coupons may have spurred the increases, in contrast to newspaper industry trends, Francis said, “;I think that over time people start to really believe in the product, and you don't usually see immediate change and trends, but we're pretty pleased to see the results, especially when it's verified by an organization like Scarborough, which is the measuring stick for just about any sort of media research in the country.”;

Francis attributes some of the increased readership to programs the paper has had, offering free copies with purchase at various quick-service restaurants such as Subway and Burger King and other businesses including McKinley Car Wash.

Copies distributed for free do not count toward paid circulation, as tallied by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which measures only paid circulation by newspapers and other publications.

“;But what it does mean, is people are reading the product and the advertisers get results because people are reading the newspaper, and I think that's what is different”; from what many other newspapers have done, Francis said.

The company has been successful at combining paid circulation, or home delivery and single-copy sales “;with some of our nonpaid distribution, which increased our reach and our readership levels,”; Francis said.

Some paid circulation growth has come through telemarketing of subscription sales, “;and we get all those orders paid in advance for a year.”;

Newspapers typically offer subscriptions, begin delivery and bill after the fact, often in increments of time.

Annual subscriptions “;are a lot harder to sell, but we're selling almost twice as many as before with the new format and our switch to morning delivery,”; he said.

“;Our circulation department is pretty small compared to most dailies our size, and they've been doing a great job.”;

The next Scarborough survey will cover October 2008 to September 2009 and is expected to be received in October, Francis said.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Newspaper readership on Oahu


 April 2008 to March 2009April 2007 to March 2008
NewspaperReadership% of populationReadership% of population% change
Honolulu Star-Bulletin145,702 (a)20.8%132,69018.9%+10.1%
Hawaii Tribune-Herald31205,5020.8%- 94.3%
Honolulu Advertiser346,15049.4%343,45848.9%+1.0%
Maui News1,5730.2%5,3310.8%-75.0%
West Hawaii Today8,6591.2%6,9771.0%+20.0%



 April 2008 to March 2009April 2007 to March 2008
NewspaperReadership% of populationReadership% of population% change
MidWeek (twice weekly)492,258 (b)70.2%446,53363.6%+10.4%
Honolulu Weekly100,36614.3%117,46416.7%-14.4%
Pacific Business News54,0117.7%63,8149.1%-15.4%

(a) The Honolulu Star-Bulletin converted to tabloid format on April 13, 2009.

(b) MidWeek reduced its distribution from twice weekly to once a week in February.

The study involved 1,634 respondents for the projected universe of 701,036 Oahu readers.

Source: Scarborough Research