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Decline in newspaper circulation follows decline in comics printed

Lindsay Foyle argues that the decline in newspaper subscriptions follows the decline of running comic strips in The New Matilda.

Over the past 20 years it has become the trendy thing to do for newspaper editors to reduce the number of comics they publish. Not just in Australia, but all over the world. Just why, is baffling comic strip artists everywhere. Because following the deduction in the number of comics being published, there is a decline in circulation.

The reduction is always accompanied by other redesign contributions, so it is always hard to put the loss of circulation down to just the loss of comics. However when confuted by a continuing trend it is very hard to argue there is any newspaper anywhere, which has benefited in anyway by the comic strip reduction.

The general trend has been to reduce all kinds of content as newspapers have shrunk in size. It’s hard for me to say there’s a 1-1 relationship, but certainly dropping popular features leaves readers with less reason to buy the product.

The above opinion piece comes after the APN dropped the Aussie original Ginger Meggs scored the highest in a recent comics poll, but was still dropped.

Community Comments

#1 Dale Stout
@ 7:06 pm

Is that ‘ circular’ reasoning?

#2 Keith Brown
@ 7:31 pm

I still contend that newspaper editors and publishers should try a new model. Allow local or national advertisers to sponsor individual cartoons.
For instance: Marmaduke – Brought to you by Jodi’s Pet Grooming or Peanuts – brought to you by ” Jim’s Grocery SuperStore, etc.
I think advertisers would jump at the chance. I know I would do it if I were an advertiser.
This would be a win win for the papers and cartoonists alike.
This could even lead to larger and even more cartoons being printed. When will they learn that readers want the cartoons?
Does anyone here know any editors or syndicate people they can ask this question?

#3 Mike Peterson
@ 4:43 am

Keith, there are a couple of problems with matching advertisers with comics:

1. Advertisers are ephemeral. Comics need to be constant in order to build reader familiarity. If the pet store that was sponsoring Marmaduke cuts their ad budget, do you cancel the strip? You’d end up with strips coming and going and readers never catching onto any of them. And bear in mind that this is a small ad space, so your sales team is not going to drop everything to go find a replacement for a 3×2 ad.

2. All you could have is a “brought to you by” line of type. Not sure that’s gonna sell. But an accompanying ad would be impossible to schedule and expensive because now you’re asking them to pay for an even bigger ad.

Even if they’d pay for it, a lot of comics production work is chimpwork, either done at the lowest level of prepress or farmed out, and often done well in advance. Advertisers tend to come flying in at the last minute. I designed a Sunday section with a half-page space that we almost never got an ad for because so few advertisers were willing to lock in their copy that far in advance. I can’t imagine the headaches trying to set it up for 20 individual strips, even a week in advance rather than six as required for Sunday preprints.

#4 Mike Peterson
@ 4:50 am

By the way, the “comics sell papers” concept dates back to when a city had multiple papers and there was minimal competing media. Before consolidation of papers and the emergence of broadcasting, people were choosing which newspaper to buy, not whether or not to buy one at all.

Newspapers are not fine restaurants but, rather, diners: They sell not on five-star premier excellence but on low-budget, overall daily satisfaction. A good comics page is like having good french fries — it’s part of that overall satisfaction, but it’s not a main driver. For every person who comes to the paper specifically for the comics, there are a hundred who come for local sports coverage, and that’s still not enough people to keep the franchise afloat. You need the entire package.

That said, the declining comics page is a sign of ownership that doesn’t give a damn — if the diner once had great french fries and has cut back to mediocre ones, you can bet it isn’t the only place they’ve decided not to provide their customers with satisfaction. It’s not the reason nobody wants to eat there anymore, but it’s certainly one of the symptoms.

#5 Keith Brown
@ 5:54 am

@Mike Petersen,
It wouldn’t be a fix all and you wouldn’t have to match advertisers with strips like a pet groomer and marmaduke. My thought was to have it all in the title line-
PEANUTS – Sponsored by Joe’s Garage. for example

Nothing special or flashy, an not a seperate ad needing more space.
It’s just a thought.

#6 Jeff Knurek
@ 9:55 am

It’s ridiculous to think there is money to be saved by getting rid of comics. What I have paid for an Obituary in a paper versus what that same paper pays for the Jumble per month, I could have paid for every strip in that paper for the month. Papers are making money. They have cut themselves down to the bone and every ad and obit is money coming in. Most hardly have staff to put them in the red. Circulation is decreasing, yes. I can’t believe they remove content that many buy the paper to see.

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