Are newspaper’s numbers creative?

For several weeks, I’ve seen The Daily Gazette’s self-promotion regarding how its circulation growth has trumped all other local newspapers, including the Times-Union and The Leader-Herald. Imagine my surprise when the Business Review ran “The List” of Newspapers (ranked by paid circulation) in the July 26-Aug. 1 edition and the year-to-year (negative) growth rates were: minus 6.9 percent, minus 2.49 percent and minus 6.42 percent for the Gazette, T-U and L-H, respectively.

Is this simply a case of creative license in the Gazette’s self-promotion or have its fortunes turned on a dime since the paper’s recent self-promotion and it is now losing ground to its local competitors? (The Business Review does not footnote the source of its numbers, but presumably, it is making credible apples-to-apples comparisons. Alternatively, the circulation numbers may be supplied by the newspapers themselves.)

Furthermore, what part do the respective newspapers’ online editions play in these circulation numbers, if any? I know that The Leader-Herald’s terrific online version is free, but I believe that I pay for the Gazette’s online edition.