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Using circ numbers to plot coverage

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Inky_Wretch, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Plotting fall coverage of high school sports and I got a copy of our ABC audit. I'm toying with the idea of tweaking coverage based on circulation in some of the outlying towns. In the past, it's always been a "Well, this team is pretty good and that one isn't" or "This town is bigger than the other one" or "This town is closer to the office than that one" decision when deciding which small-school games to cover. But if Town A is buying 602 papers M-F, shouldn't it be higher on the priority list than Town B (which has a better team) but only takes 434 papers?

    Does anybody else do this? Should I be doing it?
     
  2. Rockbottom

    Rockbottom Active Member

    Not sure 602 v. 434 is a valid spread, but your overall point is valid. When I checked with our circ peeps a few years back about the bumfuck schools we had (that natually made the state finals in everything), I learned we didn't even have racks OR delivery in some of the places. Voila, a couplw fewer teams to worry about!

    RB
     
  3. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I was just using those numbers as an example.

    With the staff cutbacks over the past couple of years and the suits wanting us to cut back on mileage, I'm just trying to figure out the best ROI for the outlying towns.
     
  4. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    This used to drive me bats at the Herald. The High school editors, who were excellent as a group in most respects, would insist on covering games in Newburyport or New Bedford because they were "big games," but where we sold no papers, because our circulation pretty much ended at the last subway stops.
    IW, you are on the right track.
     
  5. It should be done, but it often isn't.

    I worked at an 85K paper which had a different coverage area for its school sports than it did for its "academic all-star" team. The sports people pulled out of one town in our former coverage area, only to crawl back a year later when, as it turned out, they DID sell papers there.

    Freaks.
     
  6. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Of course, if you restrict coverage only to where the most papers are sold, you'll never increase circulation in the other areas. But this is not something that the newsroom can accomplish by itself. Your editor should know where the circulation department is trying to make a push and where it's thinking of raising the white flag. It's always smart to raise the question, but it's rarely smart to make the decision without consulting other departments.

    An editor I don't respect once announced to the staff that he'd decided we were going to start covering the county where I happened to be raised. After the meeting, I said to him that even if we sell another 5,000 copies there, what do you hope to accomplish? There is little retail there beyond chain stores, and they have the same chains that already advertise in our paper. The increase in revenue will never cover the cost of the manpower being allocated. He did it anyway, and they pulled back about a year later. No department can go it alone strategically that way. You really have to know whether the advertising and circulation departments also want that town and are willing to expend the effort to take it. Sometimes there are good reasons why the departments have given up a town for dead, and editors should not assume they know better than the people who run the newspaper's other departments.
     
  7. Jake_Taylor

    Jake_Taylor Well-Known Member

    I agree in going where the circulation is to a degree, but sometimes there are other factors. This winter we had a basketball team in a neighboring county start the season 28-0. The school was in our area, but we sold a LOT more papers in our own county.

    Then I went to cover a game there I found that a lot of people from our county were driving down there to watch this team play because the local teams weren't very good. Pretty soon this team from out in the sticks was the talk of our bigger town because we were covering them.
     
  8. ink-stained wretch

    ink-stained wretch Active Member

    Good idea, cousin. But what about ur web site? Maybe the dead tree edition doesn't go to the back of beyond, but ur web does. Circulation may not be a true measure of interest. Now if the geniuses that run this biz would just figure out how to monetize all those eyes that get their news for free.

    Wait! Did I say monetize? Oh lord, the disease has spread! Declare a pandemic! Push the panic button! Cut more positions!
     
  9. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    raspberry orange intake?
     
  10. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Cousin, you know the neck of the woods I'm talking about. I doubt if we're getting many Internet readers from the sticks.

    Oh, and Nana said you should call more often. Though she did like your Mother's Day card.
     
  11. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    As long as you cover my town, I don't care what you do.
    Personally, I don't think a perfect solution for coverage is out there.
    You can look at circ and rack sales, but, like in advertising, consistency is the key, most people won't start buying a paper because you covered their school the night before.
    Because, a) if you don't cover them on a consistent basis, the average reader won't know to look for gamer coverage and b) if you cover them once, and then not again for the rest of the season, you just make people mad.
    I think the key isn't to think of game night coverage, but weekly coverage.
    Assuming you are prep heavy, you approach it day-by-day, so on Tuesday you run a big school notebook and feature, Wednesday you run player of the week and stats, Thursday is small schools notebook and feature. Friday is game previews with capsules on each game and you tell readers where you are sending staffers, so people will have at least have an idea of what to expect.
    Then Saturday you staff, however many games you can in regards to importance and also circulation numbers and then roundups on the rest off the phone, or at least what you can get.
     
  12. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    We take circulation into account all the time in planning coverage, but that's only one factor.

    Obviously, the towns we deliver the most to get concentrated on, and there are a few towns on our fringe we've identified as having growth potential. But if a team seems headed to an 0-10 year, we'll probably just stick that game in the roundup and send a stringer elsewhere.
     
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