The Las Vegas Review-Journal, somewhat surprisingly, defied this trend in dramatic fashion. The circulation data is up 6.56 percent from 165,011 to 175,841. A small handful of papers went up.
I thought I had a hunch as to what had happened here. The reporting period was from April to October of 2009, and in April of 2009 came the single most significant moment in Nevada journalism, the Las Vegas Sun's Pulitzer Prize for Public Service reporting on the construction deaths at CityCenter. Could it be that the public thought, "Huh, that's a big deal, maybe I should take another look at the local paper"? Such an event wouldn't move the needle in a place like New York or Los Angeles where Pulitzers are a dime a dozen, but in a city of rootless migrants, maybe there's a curiosity effect similar to when a little movie wins an Oscar?
Would that it were so. And how bizarre that I've been disabused of my theory by none other than the Review-Journal's own brass. In Joe Strupp's Editor & Publisher report about the few circulation jumpers is this passage:
Steve Coffeen, director of corporate circulation for Stephens Media, which owns the Review-Journal, says the paper's print circulation is actually down seven percent daily and four percent on Sunday.
"I would say all of it is based on the electronic edition," Coffeen said of the increase. "We have about 20,000 electronic subscribers who were not allowed to be included before because of pricing rules. We didn't change anything, they changed the rules."
What a disappointment. Also, a curiosity. He says there are 20,000 electronic subscribers? I assume this is the electronic edition that looks just like the actual paper, not people who read stuff on their website. I must say, I have never, ever met or had any communication with anyone who subscribed to the local newspaper this way. You'd think the people who did so would be techies who also read blogs and such. Right? They're saying more than 11 percent of their readership does this?
Does that make sense?