Are former Rocky Mountain News subscribers abandoning the Denver Post?

The Denver Post has done some mighty fine work since it became the city's only major daily, as pointed out in today's blog about an impressive drunk-driving-stats package. But that doesn't mean every subscriber to the Rocky Mountain News, which closed in late February, is switching his loyalties to the surviving broadsheet. Indeed, new circulation digits argue to the contrary.

A report in the industry publication Editor & Publisher shows most of the country's top-25 dailies losing circulation in a big way -- but it doesn't liken the Post's numbers to those the paper racked up a year ago because of the demise of its former joint-operating agreement partner. However, a comparison can still be made, since Rocky subscribers began automatically receiving the Post unless they contacted the Denver Newspaper Agency and requested a refund -- and the results aren't pretty.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the organization that tracks newspaper circulation, the Post registered a Monday-through-Friday circ of 371,728 for the most recent period. That sum doesn't stack up to ABC calculations found in a Rocky article from April 28, 2008. Back then, the combined circulation for the Denver dailies was 450,258 (225,193 at the Post, 225,065 for the Rocky). Hence, the Post's latest total represents a plummet of 78,530, or more than 17 percent.

Some of this decline has no link to disgruntled ex-Rocky subscribers. Indeed, this October 28, 2008 offering listed updated daily circulation at the Rocky and the Post at 420,867 (210,281 at the Rocky, 210,586 at the Post) -- 29,391 fewer than just six months earlier. Since then, however, almost 50,000 more Denverites have decided that they can do without a newspaper subscription. And many of them, no doubt, once received the Rocky.

These figures don't definitively destroy Post publisher and de facto owner Dean Singleton's dream of winning over approximately 80 percent of Rocky loyalists -- an unprecented success rate, as stressed in this sidebar to "The Rocky Mountain News is Going Down," a December feature article. Nonetheless, the circulation would have to pretty much stabilize where it is to keep hope alive -- and no industry observer I know expects that to happen.

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