New numbers released today by a journalism industry auditor show that the Sun-Sentinel has won a rare victory in the South Florida media wars: Over the past year, its Sunday circulation surpassed the Miami Herald's.
Preliminary numbers compiled by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show that by the end of September, the Sentinel's Sunday circulation was 239,230, compared to 238,613 for the Herald. Last year at this time, the Herald's Sunday
circulation was 279,484, beating the Sentinel by roughly 10,000.
This reversal may not seem like news, considering the enormous decline of newspaper circulation all over the country. But for veterans of what was once a fierce newspaper battle, it's like watching Miley Cyrus sweep the Oscars.
The Herald has a long-cherished reputation as the investigative news giant of South Florida, with celebrities such as Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen launching their journalism careers from its pages. The Sentinel has fought hard to compete circulation-wise but never had a great reputation for journalistic heft.
Interestingly, the Herald still has a higher average daily circulation than the Sentinel (162,000 compared to 153,500). Newspaper circulation usually jumps on Sundays because of the huge increase in ads.
Anders Gyllenhaal, executive editor of the Herald, is quick to point out that the paper still has an edge in terms of actual readers in print and online. According to the September numbers, it had 5.2 million unique web users a month, compared to the Sentinel's 3.4 million.*
"We reach more people than we ever have in our history," Gyllenhaal says.
Plus, he explains that the circulation drop is largely due to cutbacks on copies of the paper sold to hotels and other third-party vendors -- a choice the Herald made to save money in tough times.
"Circulation we know is going to go down," he says. "Don't be misled by it."
*(The Sentinel's average is based on one month of data, while the Herald's is based on six months of data.)