JammieWearingFool:  Newspaper Circulation Crumbles

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Audit Bureau of Circulations released this morning the spring figures for the six months ending March 31, 2009, showing that the largest metros continue to shed daily and Sunday circulation -- now at a record rate.

According to ABC, for 395 newspapers reporting this spring, daily circulation fell 7% to 34,439,713 copies, compared with the same March period in 2008. On Sunday, for 557 newspapers, circulation was down 5.3% to 42,082,707. These averages do not include 84 newspapers with circulations below 50,000 due to a change in publishing frequency.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMedia* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

9 Comments
Posted April 27, 2009 at 10:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Sherri2 wrote:

I think what is happening is that their cutbacks to this point have left them with less and less of what attracts their base. Four generations of my family subscribed to the Atlanta daily. We would still subscribe to it if they hadn’t sucked in their distribution area (I wonder if all of Atlanta even gets it now.) In desperation for a daily newspaper, we subscribed to the Macon Telegraph. It was a pale substsitute, but OK - until they started making more and more cuts, providing more and more canned news and features. We still subscribe. It takes about two minutes to read. How I wish I for a decent daily newspaper.

April 27, 12:08 pm | [comment link]
2. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

No. 1,

I tend to agree. They always want to blame the drop in subscriber rates on internet media, etc. While I am sure that is certainly part of it, the fact is that the quality of many major newspapers is abyssmal. I think that factors in as much if not more than the internet issue. If I want blipped, canned AP news reports, I’ll go on the internet, or if I want CNN in tabloid form, I’ll just watch CNN or go over to the dark side and subscribe to the USA Today.

I think the way for newspapers to increase readership is to increase special articles and news that you just can’t get on the major Networks or internet. Well thought out editorials (not blog rants), actual international news (not the fluff that passes for international news on the 24-hour news channels), a good selection of comics and sports writing, etc., are crucial. 

Nothing turns me off quicker to a newspaper than sloppy, banal editorials and sports pages that are nothing but box scores and headlines. I almost dropped the local Sioux Falls newspaper until baseball season started, as it turns out they have pretty good baseball write ups in the Sports page, and have several local sports writers.

Granted, sports is ultimately trivial, but newspapers have to have something that piques people’s interest and makes people want to read them day after day. If they try to compete on the level of internet headline news (that usually has little substance), they might as well fold.

And in the age of home printing software, they also need to be sure their presentation looks like something better than something printed off at home with Microsoft publisher. If I think I could print a better newspaper from my home PC, I’m not going to pay 50 cents or more to buy some rag.

Where I used to live in Lincoln, Nebraska, the local paper just had the feel of a penny-ante operation with some weird soy based ink that smeared if you tried to do the Sudoku or whatever. I got the Omaha paper instead, which I miss because it actually looked professional, not like some cheap Onion ripoff. True substance and presentation is something that the internet can’t compete with.

April 27, 12:40 pm | [comment link]
3. Sherri2 wrote:

I think the way for newspapers to increase readership is to increase special articles and news that you just can’t get on the major Networks or internet. Well thought out editorials (not blog rants), actual international news (not the fluff that passes for international news on the 24-hour news channels), a good selection of comics and sports writing, etc., are crucial.

I would love to see the kind of in-depth stories I used to take for granted. Investigative reporting.  And, gosh, I’ve almost forgotten what it was like to get international use that wasn’t just canned sound bytes. Most papers I see now use the international news as filler, often including only one or two sentences per item - not enough to give you a clue what is going on. The Atlanta daily could at least do a thorough job of covering what is going on at the state capitol. Reporting local trends. Etc.

True substance and presentation is something that the internet can’t compete with.

Exactly. They should quit trying to compete with the Internet and do what they do best - what no one else out there *is* doing.

April 27, 1:31 pm | [comment link]
4. Franz wrote:

How about if the papers hired reporters who actually know something about something, instead of graduates of journalism programs?  I can’t read a single article involving legal issues without thinking that the reporter got something wrong (the articles just don’t make sense if you know anything about the procedural aspects of law).  I’ve seen plenty of articles about religion that are completely trivial (and I don’t count myself an expert on religious issues).  So I figure, if I, a moderately well educated liberal arts grad and lawyer, can find errors in a reporter’s understanding of law, religion, economics and science, what errors are they perpetuating that I don’t pick up on.

Add to that:  local “metro” columnists who appear to phone in their twice weekly pieces; a declining list of op-ed writers biased ever more toward the left; huge feature length pieces of trivial import, as well as all the deficiencies listed above . . .

(And I get the St. Petersburg (Fl.) times, which, by many accounts is “better” than most).

April 27, 3:10 pm | [comment link]
5. deaconjohn25 wrote:

I know it is politically incorrect to say it, but maybe one chunk of major city newspapers loss in circulation is the fact huge swaths of their circulation area do not now speak English.
    I know, I taught in an inner city high school for 37 years and as more and more students were from from homes where English was not the first language, I found their families did not get the local daily and the students from such homes—even though they might speak perfect English—weren’t nearly as interested in the daily newspapers as were those from English language homes. Yet I have seen nowhere this being cited as at least a possible reason for the drop in newspaper circulation in big cities.

April 27, 8:43 pm | [comment link]
6. The_Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

No. 5.,
I’m curious, Do you think Hispanics or other non-native English speakers were more prone to read Spanish (or other) language newspapers? I know they have those in circulation a lot. Or are they not reading anything in general?

April 27, 10:24 pm | [comment link]
7. RichardKew wrote:

Having moved back to England nearly two years ago my wife and I set about identifying a daily newspaper here. We finally gave up because most of the time of the journalism is so horrible. Our solution has been to continue taking The Economist, to which I have subscribed for at least 25 years, and have on online edition of the New York Times, and we can get Tennessee news from the online Tennessean, etc.

That we have given up the daily subscription to a newspaper suggests how rocky the market for the daily press has become. We want news, not endless pages of shrill commentary. We want articles that edify, not the endless procession of postmodern nonsense that masquerade as such. The sports pages are no good to us because we don’t have an endless appetite for soccer.

So, we have been set free from newspaper thralldom, and do you know, I don’t really miss it!

April 28, 3:35 am | [comment link]
8. Sherri2 wrote:

How about if the papers hired reporters who actually know something about something, instead of graduates of journalism programs?

I think a lot of more experienced writers are being/have been let go - the young ones are cheaper. But during the two semesters I was in UGA’s Henry W. Grady School of Journalism, we were told, more than once, that employers would not look at our journalism classes but at what else we had studied.

Good feature writing is not dead. Good religion writing is not dead. The odds of finding both in the same paper do, however, appear to be diminishing rapidly.

April 28, 12:26 pm | [comment link]
9. deaconjohn25 wrote:

6—Sadly many kids of immigrant families don’t seem to be interested in reading newspapers at all. It is probably a combination of factors. They apparently aren’t interested in reading newspapers published in the language of their parents. Yet the English language dailies ignore immigrant communities of which these kids are still part of.

April 28, 10:29 pm | [comment link]
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