THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Newspaper audit now counts paying Web readers

By Erin Ailworth
Globe Staff / May 4, 2011

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The nonprofit organization that audits newspaper circulation yesterday released figures based on a new measurement system that aims to capture a broader spectrum of readers — including those using certain digital products — and provide more transparency to advertisers.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations reported that The Boston Globe’s average daily circulation in the six months ending March 31 was 219,214, while the paper’s Sunday circulation was 356,652. Daily circulation for The Boston Herald averaged 123,811, and its Sunday circulation, 87,296, in the new methodology.

The state’s third-largest newspaper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, had an average daily circulation of 79,168, and Sunday circulation of 87,702. The Telegram & Gazette, like The Boston Globe, is owned by The New York Times Co.

Since circulation is counted in a different way, the audit bureau said the figures cannot accurately be compared to previous reports. There is little argument, however, that print circulation has declined steadily and substantially over the past few years as readers and advertisers have moved to the Internet.

The audit bureau’s figures do not capture the millions of readers who visit free newspaper websites, such as Boston.com, the Globe’s online affiliate. Yesterday, Globe publisher Christopher M. Mayer said the circulation numbers show that the Globe and Boston.com continue to reach a significant portion of greater Boston’s readers.

“While we do see a continuation of declines in print, we are heartened by the strength of our brands,’’ Mayer said. “This is particularly meaningful as we get set to launch our new paid website, BostonGlobe.com, later in the summer as a companion to Boston.com, which will remain free.’’

In a statement, Herald spokeswoman Gwen Gage said: “The Herald fared better than most newspapers in the region, and we’ve seen strong growth in our online and app-based platforms.’’

The Audit Bureau of Circulations has been working for more than two years with newspaper publishers and advertisers to develop the new methodology to better capture changes in the ways that newspapers are read and delivered.

Under the new system, total circulation is now divided into paid circulation for newspaper copies that are bought by the consumer and a new “verified circulation’’ category for copies bought by third parties, such as colleges. The new methodology also counts electronic editions and will break out readership numbers for those who get their news using a paid website, like BostonGlobe.com, or through a mobile device or e-reader.

“Newspaper publishers and the advertisers that make up two-thirds of ABC’s board of directors worked in tandem with ABC to modify paid circulation reporting to more accurately reflect newspapers’ total audience,’’ said John F. Sturm, chief executive of the Newspaper Association of America. “This fresh approach provides advertisers with more transparency and market data than ever before, delivering the very information they’ve identified as critical to making better buying decisions in today’s environment.’’

Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com.