The Herald Is Number Two

1206990694Last November, we were saddened to hear that the Metro beat the Herald in the circulation game. Then-Metro editor Stuart Layne took some time to gloat, and we feared the end was near for our perv-obsessed tabloid.

It seems we may have worried our pretty little heads about nothing. Adam Reilly reported late last week that an audit of the Metro’s numbers showed its circulation dropped precipitously at the end of last year. Which means we are once again a two-newspaper town.

Reilly has the damning figures.

According to a brand-new Certified Audit of Circulations report, Metro Boston’s average circulation for the quarter ending September 30, 2007 was 135,888. That’s a drop of more than 51,000 papers/day, or around 27 percent.

That’s going to put off some advertisers. We contacted the Metro for an explanation and got some jargon from Tracy Carracedo, Marketing Director at Metro Boston.

The reason for the decrease in net circulation reported by [the Certified Audit of Circulations] in Q3 and Q4 is mainly due to so called “adjustments.” An adjustment means that CAC was unable to validate this part of Metro’s circulation. CAC made a 15% adjustment in Q3 and an 8% adjustment in Q4.

An audit director at CAC explained that the Metro keeps its own circulation numbers, which it gets by counting how many papers are left in boxes and with hawkers at the end of the day. On a quarterly basis, CAC representatives do their own evaluation. When the company noticed a discrepancy between its numbers and those the Metro keeps, it issues an adjustment.

The drop is good news for the Herald, which can officially reclaim the mantle of the second-most popular newspaper in the city. Editor Kevin Convey told us the last 52-week audit number from April, 2007 is 202,545. A statement from Publisher Pat Purcell late last year had the number at 185,832.

Convey then got philosophical.

The final issue, I suppose, is whether one can ever fairly compare the circulation of a free paper with a paid one. I think the answer is no. I would tell you this much with certainty, however: If economics were ever to permit us to go free we would give away one hell of a lot more papers than the Metro has managed to do during its lifetime.

If the commuters who snap up free copies on their commute home are any indication, he’s right. If people are that excited about stale news, we can’t imagine how happy they’d be to have it in the morning.

In typical Herald style, he leaves us with a zinger.

[T]here never has been any question about who put out the better paper, or which paper was more attractive to advertisers. Now there isn’t any question about which paper appeals to more readers. Suggested new slogan for the little shopper that couldn’t: “Metro: We can’t Even Give It Away.”