QC Times circulation for 2014 shows continued decline; new branded edition now being distributed

Quad City Times Sunday and weekday circulation continued its downward trend in 2014, according to figures in the Lee Enterprise annual report sent shareholders earlier this year.

Lee, owner of the QC Times and 45 other daily newspapers, listed the Quad City Times Sunday circulation at 47,308 for 2014, a nearly 9 percent decline from the previous year. Its weekday circulation numbers were down nearly nearly 11 percent to 36,160. The report noted that the circulation numbers "aren't comparable to the prior year because of changes the way the Alliance for Audited Media measures circulation."

However, those changes – which permit newspapers to count "branded editions" as well as online only subscriptions – would normally mean higher circulation numbers in the year-to-year comparisons. Lee's St. Louis Post-Dispatch last year showed a sizable increase in circulation by counting its new "branded editions."

Branded editions are separate publications of the newspaper that have a different name but maintain a consistent identity, according to the alliance web site. To qualify as a branded edition, the audit group says the publication must: publish at least weekly; represent itself as a newspaper, not as a magazine or a newsletter; contain editorial content or requested by the consumer; publish on the same paper-stock as the member publication; and be identified as “An edition of ” the member name.

Recently, the Quad City Times began free distribution of a Sunday branded edition called "Yes - Your Essential Shopper." The paper is a catalog of health, home, fashion and food items for sale, and says it is produced by Studio Gannett (a division of the Gannett media company) "in association with your local newspaper."

For the Quad City Times, the numbers reported in the annual report show a continued downward trend in paid circulation over the past seven years. Back in 2001, the Times Sunday circulation stood at just above 71,000, while its paid circulation for its weekday editions was more than 50,000.

Lee has begun charging for access to its online news sites and has rolled out a company-wide effort to convert newspaper subscribers to its digital product.

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