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Opinion: SBJ got audited — and it was so good

The Strategic Suite

Posted online

Every two years, Springfield Business Journal is audited by the Circulation Verification Council. CVC audits 3,000 publications nationwide covering 22 categories in print and over 50 business publications, like SBJ.

Since our audit is conducted through a membership with the Alliance of Area Business Publishers, we have an extra layer between us and the audit process.

Like any official audit, the process is exhausting but thorough.

The bottom line is CVC and the audit process provides transparent and highly-credible readership information and trends about SBJ readers.

As you have seen in the pages of SBJ, on SBJ.net and at some of our events, we have been refreshing our readers’ experience as your Business Authority. And we’ve been looking forward to our audit to hear what a third party has to say about our work.

How does SBJ compare now versus two years ago?

CVC said 325 SBJ readers responded to its questions – the minimum number of subscribers needed for a survey to be credible is 250. That level of participation adds more credibility and depth to the data.

CVC complimented SBJ on the number of copies cited in our circulation report that are not distributed for free to pad our circulation counts. Of course, we send sample issues as part of our circulation growth strategy, but the auditors recognized that 95.7 percent of SBJ’s circulation is paid versus the national average of 83 percent. No fluff here.

Readers are spending more time with the print edition of SBJ. Nearly 80 percent of readers now spend 15 minutes or more with SBJ each week compared with 63 percent two years ago. Our average weekly page count has grown to 38 pages from 24 pages, a 58 percent clip. That’s no surprise because readers spend more time reading more content.

Businesspeople read SBJ regularly. One would think our 94.4 percent of readers saying they reference SBJ regularly would be awesome, right? We are very happy that now 97.3 percent report they regularly read or look through the business journal. Only 2.7 points to go to perfection.

Our readers per edition has grown dramatically. Through internal readership surveys, we know 77 percent of our business readers route SBJ around their offices as “required reading.” Nationally, business publications average 4.3 readers per copy, aka the pass-along rate, compared with 1.75 readers per copy for daily newspapers. SBJ commands 5.3 readers per copy which is up 11.5 percent from two years ago.

That means our print readership continues to grow rapidly. With our 21 percent increase in circulation since January 2016 and growth in our reader per copy to 5.3, SBJ can proudly say we have over 45,000 weekly readers. And yes, 97.5 percent say they read us each week.

What’s more, the auditors say our growth in readership stems from an increase in “ultra affluent” readers. That’s the best kind of growth.

SBJ readers are more affluent than ever. The auditors define readers with household income levels of $150,000 or more “ultra affluent.” In 2012, 29 percent of readers were ultra affluent compared with 33 percent in 2015. Now, 38 percent of our readers meet this criteria, and we are proud to see the prosperity in Springfield grow along with those who regularly seek SBJ as their primary source for business information.

Naturally, SBJ.net has grown across the board. Unique visitors are up 75 percent to 43,134 visitors in 2017 from 24,642 in 2015. Those visitors have driven web sessions up 47 percent and page views up 31 percent.

We still fall behind the national average on “sharing content with others” because of our paywall, but we know the readers who do invest in our news get unique, local and authoritative content. That’s not a number we are willing to trade, but we are labeling our content more prominently to let readers know what is behind the paywall and what is available to the public for sharing.

Overall, readers are spending more time with SBJ in print and online. Business content in print and online is growing. The SBJ audience accesses our content more regularly, and the readers per edition outpace the national average. The affluency of SBJ readers is on the rise, and our redesigned website is hitting the mark.

That’s a good audit.

Yes, I share all of this because I want to tell the story of our success. And, you know from my past columns, I love data. The biggest reason I share this is to celebrate the 17 people at SBJ who make this happen and have been committed to creating the best possible business publication for you, our reader.

How could anyone enjoy an audit? Well, when you work as hard as this team does and your performance is verified by the most credible third party in the industry, it’s a happy day.

Springfield Business Journal Associate Publisher Marty Goodnight can be reached at mgoodnight@sbj.net.

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