The report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations shows The Herald's Sunday circulation increased to 50,795 in March from 49,115 a year earlier, up 3.3 percent.
Herald Director of Operations Jorge Rivera, who oversees the newspaper's circulation department, credited the gain to a redesign of the Sunday edition in early 2011 that added the Viewpoints section, which showcases a range of local and national commentary, and the Great Outdoors, a page of expanded outdoor recreational coverage in the Sunday Sports section.
"We have a very good product," Rivera said. "We have a good connection with the community."
Rivera also cited The Herald's promotional efforts for coupon advertising in the Sunday paper. Coupon-clipping has boomed during the Great Recession.
Elsewhere in Washington, the ABC report shows Sunday circulation gains at the News-Tribune in Tacoma and the Columbian in Vancouver, Rivera said. Other state newspapers either held their ground or lost circulation on Sundays.
The ABC report paints a grimmer picture for Monday-through-Saturday circulation.
The Herald's paid weekday circulation dropped just under 3.4 percent, to 46,116. Other state papers fared even worse. The Seattle Times' weekday circulation plunged by 7.1 percent. The News-Tribune in Tacoma reported a 5.9-percent drop.
Only the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reported an increase in weekday circulation -- 5.3 percent.
Even before the Great Recession and the migration to digital media, weekday circulation was a problem for print newspapers, Rivera said. In today's two-income households, there's less time than ever to read. And online media has eaten into single-copy sales, as readers find it more convenient to read newspapers on the Web than to fish a couple of quarters out of their pockets at newsstands.
The ABC is funded by newspapers and magazines. Verified circulation protects advertisers and help publications determine ad rates.
The agency's rules for counting paid circulation have changed with the times. The latest report breaks circulation down by print and digital. Some newspapers, most notably the New York Times, report paid digital circulation exceeding paid print circulation (The Herald currently does not have a pay system for its digital news products).
But the ABC report is not the only way The Herald measures readership. The company also uses data collected by Scarborough Research, a joint venture of the Nielsen Co. and Arbitron, Inc., to assess product performance and understand consumer buying habits in Snohomish County and the rest of the Puget Sound region, said Kelly Hulin, Herald marketing director.
According to Scarborough's surveys, The Herald newspaper is read by 162,000 adults in the Puget Sound region -- 119,000 of them in Snohomish County -- during the week, Hulin said. The Sunday newspaper is seen by 172,000 adults in the region, 139,000 of them in Snohomish County.
The readership numbers exceed paid circulation figures because two or more adults reside in most households, Hulin said. The study also counts "pass-along" readership -- newspapers read at the workplace, in doctors' waiting rooms, or at gathering spots like coffee shops.
Scarborough also tallies "cumulative" readership of all print and digital products. For The Herald, that totals 377,000 adults a week, 249,000 of them in Snohomish County, Hulin said.
"For a very competitive marketplace, those are good numbers," she said.
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