Sunday, October 26, 2014


Civic Skinny

Register circulation plummets (again). GOP ‘tickle pickle.’ Luebke is in prison.

6/12/2013

Circulation at The Des Moines Register is in a free-fall.

Far fewer people are buying the print edition, where subscribers are also forced to pay for the electronic edition whether they want it or not. And — now that it costs money — far fewer people are browsing the electronic edition, as compared with a year ago.

The combined print and digital paid circulation for the Sunday Register averaged 171,287 in the six months ended March 31, according to the newspaper’s audited reports. That’s down a whopping 14.6 percent from the 200,660 of a year earlier.

The Monday-Friday circulation — print and digital — in the latest period averaged 93,304, down 8.5 percent from the 101,915 of a year before.

The Register’s declines far outpace the industry-wide drop. Paid print and digital circulation among the 519 Sunday newspapers whose figures are audited dropped just 1.4 percent in the latest period from a year earlier, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. The drop for the 593 daily newspapers was just 0.7 percent.

DM Art Center

Among the top 25 newspapers in the nation — the Register is not one of them — only The New York Post had a larger percentage drop in Sunday circulation; 17 of the papers actually had increases in their Sunday circulation. And only the Post and the New York Daily News — competing tabloid newspapers — had larger drops in Monday-Friday circulation; 15 had increases.

The figures indicate the Des Moines newspapers’ pricing strategy isn’t working. While print subscribers, forced also to buy the electronic edition, are leaving in droves, digital-only subscriptions remain anemic. In the latest period, the daily Register reported just 6,812 digital-only subscribers, and the vast majority of those buy a digital edition that includes only “select advertising content” from the print edition. In other words, more than 5,000 of the 93,304 daily subscribers are not getting most of the ads.

Perhaps most alarming for Register executives is the sharp drop in the number of people who browse the newspaper’s website. According to the Register, the number of “unique browsers” on the paper’s website in January totaled 1,599,790 — down 36 percent from the 2,503,724 of a year earlier, when the website was free. (That’s a self-reported, unaudited figure.) The paper also reported large drops for February and March.

The Register’s figures for the metro area are equally bad. The Register defines its primary market as Polk and Dallas and Warren and Story counties, with a few townships elsewhere thrown in. Sunday circulation in these counties averaged 92,203 in the latest six-month period, down nearly 15 percent from the 108,205 of a year earlier. Monday-Friday circulation dropped about 12 percent, to 53,640 from 60,847.

One possible explanation: A year ago, a seven-day subscription cost $223.60 a year, and the website gave unlimited access. Now, a subscription — print plus the mandatory digital buy — is $300.03, though the paper apparently is offering discounts of as much as 50 percent to lure back defecting readers. A digital-only subscription costs $120 a year.

There’s more bad news for the men and women trying to sell ads in the newspaper. While circulation has been falling, the number of households in the metro area has been increasing, meaning that the so-called penetration of the newspaper — the percentage of homes getting the paper — is declining even faster. According to the latest Census Bureau estimate, there are 258,104 occupied households in the newspaper’s main market; a year earlier the number was 253,933. The drop in circulation coupled with the increase in households means the Monday-Friday Register now is bought in only 36 percent of the area’s homes; a year earlier, the figure was 40.1 percent.

These are the figures that will greet a new publisher when Gannett Co., the Register’s owner, picks a person to succeed Laura Hollingsworth, who was transferred to Nashville the other day. …

Kirsten Anderson is the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus worker who filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission the other day. Among her complaints:

• A senior analyst asked her if she was going for “a little tickle pickle” when she was leaving to meet her husband for lunch.

• The same analyst, discussing potential hires during a meeting, “joked about one candidate, ‘she likes the rhythm’ explaining to the others present ‘she likes black dick.’ ”

Ed Failor, the assistant to Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, “routinely commented negatively regarding complainant’s choice of clothing and shoes.”

The five-page complaint released to the press blacks out Anderson’s mailing address, her telephone number, her date of birth — and her gender. …

Footnote to the Marty Tirrell saga:

In February, Cityview reported that Tirrell, the radio sports shouter, had sued Toyota of Des Moines, which used to house his radio show on 1700 AM. He said he had a contract and Toyota broke it. Then last week, Cityview reported that Toyota countersued, claiming it paid Tirrell almost $80,000 to bring former football star Troy Aikman to town for promotional appearances for the auto dealer. Toyota says Tirrell didn’t produce — and kept the money.

The so-called contracts that Tirrell cites in his suit — one of which was expired and both of which were addressed “to whom it may concern” — were signed by Steve Luebke who was the general manager of Toyota of Des Moines. “He’s no longer there,” Cityview noted in February.

Indeed. In fact, since April 29 Luebke has been living in Newton, where he is inmate #0045499 at the Newton Correctional Facility. On April 22, he was sentenced to serve five years in prison after pleading guilty to a third offense of drunk driving. If he behaves in prison, he is likely to be released after 27 months, on July 29, 2015. …

Iowa’s nonfarm employment in May totaled 1,525,000, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. That means employment has grown by 36,900 since Terry Branstad reassumed office in January of 2011. He promised he’d create 200,000 jobs in five years. At the halfway point, he has 163,100 to go. CV

Medicap