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Circulation numbers continue to slide nationwide

Editor and Publisher is reporting the results of a recent report by Audit Bureau of Circulations revealing that many of the largest papers in the U.S. took heavy hits in circulation during the last six months compared to rates during that same period last year. Only one paper, The Wall Street Journal, posted a gain with an increase of .61%. The Dallas Morning News, The Star-Ledger and San Francisco Chronicle took the heaviest hits with -22%, -22% and -25% respectively. Visit E&P for stats of the list of the top 25 papers.

E&P writes a couple forces are at work that created this result.

Another shift has occurred: volume has taken a back seat to dollars.

Several major newspapers across the country have aggressively hiked prices of single-copy and home-delivered papers in search of circulation revenue and a renewed focus on loyal readers. Circulation is guaranteed to go down as prices go up, but publishers have opted to wring more revenue from readers as advertisers keep their coffers closed.

Several newspaper companies reported their circulation revenue is on the rise. In Q3, circulation revenue grew 6.7% at McClatchy, 11% at Media General, and 6.7% at The New York Times Co.

A.H. Belo raised home-delivered subscription prices from $21 to $30 on May 1 at its flagship. Daily circulation at The Dallas Morning News dropped 20.8% and 15.5% on Sunday but executives attributed about 40% of home-delivered loss to the price rate increase. The company also trimmed back circulation in other areas as well.

Community Comments

#1 Garey Mckee
October/26/2009
@ 8:13 pm

Not suprising. Why pay for content you can get online for free? Although it’s not REALLY free because you’re still paying an internet service provider, but you get my drift.

The increase in Wall Street Journal circulation probably has to do with the “Oh Sh!t” factor with our recent economic roller coaster ride this past year.

#2 Stephen Beals
October/26/2009
@ 9:53 pm

Don’t say that! … Ted Rall might hear you.

Uh, that’s a pathetic joke. Let’s just cut and paste in the comments from the Newsday article earlier.

#3 Anne Hambrock
October/27/2009
@ 6:45 am

“Why pay for content you can get online for free?”

That’s a good point that gets raised often. I personally read a lot of interesting things online but they are quite different from the types of things I read in my newspaper. With the paper, not only do I have a level of portability that I don’t get from my computer, the paper is a collection of many many different things I find to be of interest. COMICS, national news, Op Ed pieces, humor columns, entertainment news, sports news, obits, local politics and events, classifieds. I would not be interested in tracking down all these different things piecemeal on the internet, free or not. With my paper I also read things that are random and just happen to be in front of me rather than just focusing on articles about subjects that are already on my radar.

I realize that, currently anyway, I can get most of those same things for free in an online version of the newspaper but I have found that most newspaper sites use up so much bandwidth and have so much new technology in them that many of these websites either take AGES to load or require constant upgrades in computer equipment. Now that I have a shiny new computer with all the latest and greatest, I can go read these newspaper sites, but I personally know people who either have systems 4 years old or older (embedded images will simply not show up on some of these systems) or are still using dial up. Unless the internet technology gets more standardized in an affordable way, I’m afraid a lot of folks won’t bother with online versions of their newspaper.

#4 Jason Nocera
October/27/2009
@ 8:58 am

In my opinion, this argument of portability will become obsolete once the Kindle and devices like it become more mainstream.

#5 Steve Greenberg
October/27/2009
@ 9:44 am

The numbers are sad and appalling. U.S. newspaper readership is at the lowest point since pre- World War II, when records started being kept, and worse, only about 13 percent of households take papers now, versus about a third of households then.
A lot of big papers are almost HALF the size they were a decade ago. The San Francisco Chronicle, where I briefly worked, has dropped from a half-million to a quarter-million. The Daily News of L.A., where I began, has dropped to the level it was when I was there 25 years ago.
I was thinking perhaps the newspaper industry needs to pay hot young names, like the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus, to be seen reading newspapers, or have stars like Brad Pitt be seen reading them in movies. You know, product placement. Nobody under 30 buys papers now, but perhaps newspapers could reposition themselves and be seen as “retro” cool. Of course, they’d have to update their stuck-in-1975 content…

#6 Stephen Beals
October/27/2009
@ 10:51 am

Steve, that’s not a bad idea! Like the library “Read” posters only with newspapers. Newspapers need to market themselves as well as, say, cigarettes, and get into product placement.

But, yeah, they’d have to get back into that whole reporting thing.

Actually, I wonder about Gannett. They seem to know what they’re doing with USA today, but the local papers they own tend to suck. If you want to have fun, talk to long-time employees of a newspaper that was bought out by Gannett in the 90s and listen to their tales of horror as everything they knew and loved changed.

#7 Stacy Curtis
October/27/2009
@ 11:14 am

The newspaper industry, as we know it, is dying and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. And I think that’s a good thing.

I can’t wait for the transition from print to digital. As cartoonists we have to adapt and transition with it. I think the future has great possibilities for newspaper editorial cartoonists, comic strip cartoonists, gag cartoonists, illustrators, etc.
I look forward to walking around with my Kindle, or whatever device Apple is working on, reading bigger, better comics in new inventive formats.

Go towards the light, newspaper industry! Go towards the light!

#8 Anne Hambrock
October/27/2009
@ 12:00 pm

“In my opinion, this argument of portability will become obsolete once the Kindle and devices like it become more mainstream.”

Yes, but I have to say that since I have been spending so much more of my day looking at screens, I am having more trouble with my eyes. It may just be natural aging and a complete coincidence. But I really notice it after I spend a lot of time with small handheld devices like the itouch. I worry that a kindle would be the same.

#9 Stephen Beals
October/27/2009
@ 6:39 pm

Same here, Anne. Computer screens give me an unusual amount of eyestrain. Now that I’m drawing on a screen it can get pretty bad if I’m not careful. But I think the Kindle and other book readers are quite a bit different from gazing at a monitor, but since I don’t have one I can’t be sure. I have seen the Sony reader, and it’s pretty easy on the eyes in comparison.

#10 Ted Rall
October/28/2009
@ 9:01 am

By all accounts the Kindle doesn’t cause much (if any) significant eyestrain. But I also think people (mostly younger adults) who read newspapers online simply don’t know what they’re missing. Print is easier in every way except one–searchability (which I do love).

Newspapers have been screwed up so badly for so long by such morons that it’s impossible to point to any one thing that caused their current problems. But I tend to focus on content. How can you be surprised that young people stopped reading the paper when you never put anything in the paper they might be interested in reading about?

Music reviews of ancient Boomer rockers, opera, classical, etc…HUGE acts like Death Cab and the Decembrists get snubbed. (And forget about hip hop!)

News stories that never address young person concerns, like student loans or generational conflicts.

Wimpy reporting that seems out of touch. When the Vice President uses an obscenity on the floor of the Senate, don’t print “F— —-.”

Boring writing. Check out any paper from 50 years ago…the writing sparkled, had drama. Not any more.

Lame and downplayed opinion writing. Younger readers don’t believe anyone is “unbiased.” Why pretend?

Most newspapers try as hard to reach younger readers as the editors of the AARP magazine.

#11 Garey Mckee
October/28/2009
@ 3:01 pm

It will be interesting to go back and read an archive of this topic 8 years from now.

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