SALT LAKE CITY — The Deseret News reported record overall online audience growth of 49%, with local online visitors growth of 26%, and Sunday print circulation growth of 24%.
Data was released Tuesday in three areas — digital audience, print circulation and readership — by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the industry agency charged with measuring newspaper audience, and MediaOne, the Salt Lake agency which handles circulation for the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune.
For the first time, deseretnews.com surpassed the Salt Lake Tribune's website in total unique online users. Deseretnews.com is now Utah's largest newspaper web site, as measured by unique users, visits and page views.
ABC reported that average monthly unique visitors to deseretnews.com is 2.61 million, compared to 2.49 million for The Salt Lake Tribune.
"Deseretnews.com has for years had higher user engagement, as measured by visits and pages views. Surpassing all other Utah newspaper websites in unique visitors is another milestone for us," said Clark Gilbert, president and CEO of the Deseret News.
"We're pleased with our local growth. Our commitment to issues that matter to Utah families has never been stronger, and we are encouraged with the response from the market," Gilbert said.
Even as the Deseret News grows its digital reach, print circulation is growing at a record rate, Gilbert said. Print circulation is a direct measure of a newspaper's print subscribers.
MediaOne reported Tuesday that the Deseret News Sunday circulation grew by more than 24 percent. The Salt Lake Tribune's Sunday circulation grew by nearly 1 percent. Both papers beat the national average, which the Newspaper Association of America estimates was down by 3.5 percent.
Much of the Deseret News growth came from the paper's national Sunday edition as well as new distribution partnerships across Utah, including with the Spectrum in St. George and the Herald-Journal in Logan.
Weekday circulation for the Deseret News also grew at nearly 1 percent. Nationally, the NAA estimates that weekday circulation declined by 4.5 percent.
"While our long-term vision is focused on digital growth, we are pleased with the rapid growth in our printed newspaper. In an era when most print newspapers are shrinking, the Deseret News has found ways to innovate to expand our total reach — both here in Utah and nationally," said Chris Lee, Deseret News vice president.
A third measure is readership, which blends and estimates online and print audience in a local market. One year ago, ABC reported record readership growth rates for the Deseret News. This year ABC reports similar record growth rates for The Salt Lake Tribune — and that the Deseret News' numbers are slightly down.
Media experts question the significance of these surveyed numbers when compared to the other direct measurements that exist for both print and online audiences.
"Readership really isn't an accurate proxy for the reach of the printed newspaper. The industry likes it because it's a big number, but most industry experts tend to ignore it because of the creative metrics behind it," said media analyst Gordon Borell, president of Borell and Associates, one of the nation's leading media research firms.
Lee said he is enthused about the overall growth of the Deseret News audience. "It's exciting and rare to be in a news organization that is growing rapidly in both print and online."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company