Statistics-slinging NYT reporters bust, er, the NYT Company: I think we’re supposed to be shocked with this report that lots of newspapers around the country are delivering copies of their papers to individuals who are not paying for them, yet these readers are still being classisfied as paying customers even though the papers “are typically paid for by advertisers.” (This becomes very confusing later in the article when we learn that the reason the practice is controversial is because advertisers don’t like the practice, even, and I share your confusion, it is advertisers who are paying for the newspapers.) (Also, speaking of confusion, what do you call a scandal when a newspaper starts investigating itself — “Master-gate?”)(Also, I’m getting really, really confused because I read where the NYT last week purchased a stake in a Boston newspaper that is free to readers and advertisers don’t seem to mind because people seem to read it.)
Across the country each week, more than 1.6 million people who are not on newspaper subscriber rolls are being delivered copies that did not cost them a cent – but they are still being classified as paying customers, an analysis by The New York Times has found. The papers, which are typically paid for by advertisers, are delivered by small and large dailies across the country, including The Miami Herald, The Wall Street Journal, The San Jose Mercury News and The Boston Globe.
It takes the reporters (or their editors) 1,400 words to get to the following tidbit:
Among the biggest gains in third-party paid circulation were those recorded over the last two years at The Boston Globe, which is owned by The New York Times Company. The number of papers delivered on an average Sunday by The Globe in that category rose to 30,220, or 4.4 percent of its circulation in 2004, from 916, or 0.1 percent, in 2002, according to The Times’s analysis. Nearly all were delivered to people’s homes. Even with the inclusion of those copies, the paper’s overall Sunday circulation still fell, to 687,000 earlier this year from 705,000 in 2002. Alfred S. Larkin Jr., a senior vice president of The Globe, said in a statement that while such sales represented “a small percentage of our total distribution,” they nonetheless constituted “an effective way for advertisers to reach new customers and for us to build future readers.”
Then, in parenthesis, we get this factoid:
(At The Times, sponsored copies represented less than 1 percent of paid circulation on Sundays earlier last year. During the week, copies distributed to elementary and secondary schools, many of them paid by the institutions or by foundations and allowed under the old rules, represented 4.6 percent of the paper’s circulation.)
Okay, so we learn that the NYT’s circulation has approximately the same percentage of recipients receiving copies of the paper they did not pay for as the other papers — but that’s allowed under the old rules.
So, just to review this, advertisers and foundations are paying for newspapers to be distributed to people and it’s a scandal because advertisers are not happy with that practice…that they practice. Oh, and the reporters are going to resign because they feel so, well, tainted to be working for a company that would allow advertisers to give their work away for free and has just purchased a major stake in a newspaper that’s given away free to anyone who wants a copy. Wait. I just made up that part.
Does this add up? Especially, when you can read it on a free (registration required) website.
Update: The “for now anonymous publisher” at Pegasus News has another term to add to mine, “master-gate,” to describe a scandal discovered when a newspaper starts investigating itself: a selfsposé.