The rather bizarre circulation history of the Citronelle Call News continues to get stranger as the paper published its Ownership Statement for 2018 last week.
The Call News reported a 5 percent dip in its overall press run from 2017 to 2018, going from 20,600 to 19,500. There was also a 7 percent decrease in paid circulation outside the mail, which dropped from 16,648 to 15,455.
Likewise, overall average paid circulation — which includes mailed subscriptions and purchases from newsstands — dropped year-to-year by 7 percent, losing 1,238 paid readers to end up at 16,772, according to the Ownership Statement signed by publisher Willie Gray. The number of papers mailed to subscribers within the county only dropped 3 percent, holding fairly steady at 1,190.
But the trend overall for the past three years has been decidedly downward after the Call News’ ownership claimed an almost miraculous 303 percent increase in average paid circulation from 2014 to 2015 — boosting the average number of paid readers from 5,150 in 2014 to 20,780 just one year later. Making such an increase even more unusual was that the Call News saw its mailed readership go up just 24 percent to 1,237 while claiming its nonmailed distribution went from 3,991 to an average of 20,388 — a whopping 411 percent increase.
Prior to this massive surge in paid readership, the Call News reported total circulation of roughly 5,000 or less for many years. Why the vastly increased interest in picking up the Call News from a news rack or store did not translate to having it mailed is unclear.
But in the years since that increase, the paper has steadily reported a reduction in paid circulation each year. Comparing the 2018 statement to 2015, the Call News has seen a 10 percent reduction in its overall press run, a 24 percent decrease in circulation outside the U.S. mail and a 19 percent fall in total average paid circulation. Only its mailed readership has sustained less than double-digit reductions and is only down 4 percent from 2015.
The paper has also seen its claimed number of undistributed editions rise from an average of 100 per week in 2015 to 1,398 in 2018, according to the ownership statement.
Postal ownership statements are required to be published and filed with the U.S. Postal Service by any newspaper holding a publications-class postal permit. The numbers are supplied by the publishers, who swear to their accuracy. The statements are subject to scrutiny by the USPS, although any such investigations have not been usual in Mobile County.
AL.com is catching some heat because its 2018 list of “Women Who Shape the State” doesn’t include a single nominee who lives south of Montgomery.
The snub appears to be just more proof that al.com and Advance Publications’ newspapers have shifted almost all of their focus to the northern part of the state. As we reported last week, the Press-Register’s average Friday circulation is now down to 20,000. Maybe there’s a reason why.