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The State of the Dead Tree Media
Posted by: McQ on Monday, October 30, 2006

Or "how many ways can you say "declining circulation"? From Editor & Publisher:
The Los Angeles Times reported that daily circulation fell 8% to 775,766. Sunday dropped 6% to 1,172,005.

The San Francisco Chronicle was down. Daily dropped 5.3% to 373,805 and Sunday fell 7.3% to 432,957.

The New York Times lost 3.5% daily to 1,086,798 and 3.5% on Sunday to 1,623,697. Its sister publication, The Boston Globe, reported decreases in daily circulation, down 6.7% to 386,415 and Sunday, down 9.9% to 587,292.

The Washington Post lost daily circulation, which was down 3.3% to 656,297 while Sunday declined 3.6% to 930,619.

Circulation losses at The Wall Street Journal were average, with daily down 1.9% to 2,043,235. The paper's Weekend Edition, however, saw its circulation fall 6.7% to 1,945,830.

Daily circulation at USA Today slipped 1.3% to 2,269,509.

The Chicago Tribune showed slight declines. Daily dropped 1.7% to 576,132 and Sunday decreased 1.3% to 937,907.

Losses at the Miami Herald were steep. Daily circulation fell 8.8% to 265,583 and Sunday fell 9.1% to 361,846.

While daily circulation stabilized compared to past reporting periods at The Sun in Baltimore, down 4.4% to 236,172, Sunday took a massive hit. Circulation on that day dropped 9% to 380,701.

The Hartford (Conn.) Courant’s daily circ was down 3.9% to 179,066 while Sunday dropped slightly, 1.5% to 264,539.

At The Philadelphia Inquirer, daily fell 7.5% to 330,622 while Sunday declined 4.5% to 682,214. Daily circulation at its sister pub, The Philadelphia Daily News, dropped 7% to 112,540.

The Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported declines. Daily was down 4.1% to 358,887 while Sunday dropped 6.3% to 596,333.

At the Orlando Sentinel, daily circulation decreased 2.5% to 214,283. Sunday fell 4.2% to 317,226.

Daily circulation at The Arizona Republic declined 2.5% to 397,294 and 2.6% on Sunday to 503,943.

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland showed daily circulation almost flat — a small victory — with a decline of 0.6% to 336,939. Sunday was down 2.3% to 446,487.

The New York Post got a leg up in the city’s tab wars. Daily circulation at the paper overtook the Daily News in showing gains of just over 5% — perhaps the only major metro in the country to report such growth — to 704,011 copies. The Daily News also increased its daily circulation, up 1% to 693,382.

That said, Sunday is still a problem for the New York Post. Circulation grew a fraction of percentage up 0.4% to 427,624. At the Daily News, Sunday circ was almost flat, down 0.1% to 780,196.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch made advances in daily circulation up 0.6% to 276,588. Sunday was down 2.4% to 418,262.

The Denver Post’s daily circulation dropped 3.1% to 255,935. The Rocky Mountain News showed similar declines with daily down 2.9% to 255,675. Combined Sunday circulation fell 4.2% to 694,053.

Newsday reported losses. Daily fell 4.9% to 410,579 while Sunday experienced similar declines, down 4.3% to 474,750.

Daily circ at the Santa Barbara (Calif.) News-Press slipped 4.6% to 39,323. Sunday lost 5.4% to 40,801.
This is the third year such circulation declines have been seen.

Of course I work with the newspaper industry (I sell them some of the stuff they need to produce the paper), so I'm not at all happy with this. I've noted those showing a decline in bold and those showing a gain in italics. Not a pretty picture.

One of the major things most major market papers did a few years ago was go from afternoon delivery to morning delivery. That slowed the decline in circulation at bit. But, with all the different news sources available and with their ability to quickly update stories well before a newspaper can publish, they're becoming less and less a viable medium to most people.

So how to save the "dead tree media"? Concentrate in three areas.

Local: Go local for the bulk of the paper. As a consumer your ability to stay up with local news is far more limited than with national or international news. Newspapers which concentrate on local stories and following them up in depth can offer something the news consumer can't readily get elsewhere. Do investigative reporting. A version of the local news channel vs. the national news network.

Depth: Pick stories with legs and follow them up with in-depth articles exploring the subject from every angle. Stay with it to the end. Avoid the wire reports (except for a synopsis) which can be gotten everywhere by anyone. If national or international stories, develop a local angle if possible.

Opinion: Lots of it. And make most of it about local matters. Invite and print reader opinions in a format a bit longer than letter to the editor. More involvement means more circulation.

And circulation is what drives advertising dollars. Without the advertising dollars, we couldn't afford a newspaper. For a number of reasons, I'm not ready to see the Dead Tree Media go the way of T. Rex just yet.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Go local for the bulk of the paper.

Definitely. I can’t count the number of times I’ve wondered stuff like ’what caused that tie-up over by the park?’ or ’why was the sheriff’s department chopper circling over my neighborhood half the night?’ But my ’local’ paper is too busy covering the 83rd train wreck this year in Bangladore to have the answer.
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
As a suggestion, I would add:

Ditch this fraud of "objectivity" and make a straight-up play for market-share with editorial subjectivity. Anybody with a brain in their head can see right through the fraud, and the corrosive effects on maimstream markets must be obvious. (This goes for broadcast outlets, as well.) Anyone can figure out where, for instance, The New York Times stands on any given issue, all while they’re winking & nodding "objectivity".

I say they’d be a lot better off if they just ditched the pretense and acted like what they are.
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—

As a Minneapolis resident, I gave up on the Mpls "Star/Tribune" years ago, having been a Monday through Sunday subscriber for years. The sole reason? I grew absolutely sick and tired of their massive left-wing collectivist bias, and even sicker of the hypocrisy with which they denied any such bias.

From the stories which they chose to cover, to the language used in covering those stories, and to the stories which they chose NOT to cover, their bias was overwhelming in nature. As you’ve noted above, their sole strength could have been local news coverage...had they actually bothered to cover it. Since part of their agenda is to simply deny that any crime is occurring (unless there’s a body left in the street, they don’t cover local crime), they became useless as a source for local information.

They’re widely known in this town as "The Red Star", or "Rats/Fib", and with good reason. Their editorials (often thanks to the crew at Powerline) are the subject of national ridicule.
Written By: blackwing1
URL: http://
As you’ve noted above, their sole strength could have been local news coverage...had they actually bothered to cover it. Since part of their agenda is to simply deny that any crime is occurring (unless there’s a body left in the street, they don’t cover local crime), they became useless as a source for local information.
I’ve seen that sort of "reporting" as well. They’re going to have to make some decisions to survive and the path they’re on isn’t the way to do that. If they concentrated in Minnesota generally and Minneapolis specifically, there’d be plenty to fill the paper. They ought to devote a page or two to national and international capsules and give the reader a url to get more detail on those stories.
Written By: McQ
It is a dual edge sword, The papers need depth and the advertising to pay for depth. Both grow the paper together one in subscriptions the other in size. The MSM also needs to quit choosing sides. Alienating half your readership is arrogant. Maybe if they decided to report news and not filter news they could climb out of there 5’10" deep hole.
Written By: coaster
URL: http://
"Go in depth:"

Not very likely anytime soon. From what I have seen and read most newspaper writers just aren’t equipped to do more than paraphrase wire reports and insert quotes from their list of reliable sources. I suspect most of them haven’t done any real research or seen the inside of a library since they left school.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I’m not ready to see the Dead Tree Media go the way of T. Rex just yet.

Me neither. Frankly, the revenue models of the blogosphere just don’t support the output of resources that would make it even possible to perform the kind of genuine research, investigation, and firsthand, up-close observation performed regularly by major newspapers. Blogs offer opinon, interpretation of things handed to them, and paid google search-level background- public domain stuff. It ain’t the same. The NYTimes puts out a metric ton of fascinating stories with hardly anything to do with politics that help keep me educated more broadly than the blog bubble, and its herd mentality (by which i mean, a million points of view, but only about twenty-five stories, total). I’m sure the Wall Street Journal would fill a similar function if I read it.

The depth angle is key - the current info system depends on a few central media outlets to shake large stories loose and lead trends. they should figure out who they can bill for the service.

Another suggestion is to cut the online stuff way down to only a headline and a header paragraph. You want the story, buy a newspaper. They keep expanding their free web content, and their circulation keeps dropping - what a surprise! You’re competing with a free version of yourself! You’re imitating a blog media strategy with costs fifty times as large!

The WSJ does this, and surprise, they’re leading the pack.

Ditch this fraud of "objectivity" and make a straight-up play for market-share with editorial subjectivity

The alientated will always turn to their own personal niches, but objectivity remains deeply valuable for people that get sick of attitude and want as little subjectivity as possible, even if it’s an imperfect process. This is one situation where pursuing short-term market share only leads to fragmentation and a shrinking market pool in the long run (since costs, outside of the blogosphere, are greater than 0)
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
A newspaper should take a page from those books that have one language on one side and you flip it over and there’s another language on the other.

The newspaper could in tabloid form and have Right Wing slanted news on one side and flip it and get the same story on the other side from the Left. And smack in the middle would be sports. Except if it were the NY Daily News, the Lupica has-been can’t keep his liberal view out of it.
Written By: Roger Thistle
URL: http://
"...objectivity remains deeply valuable for people that get sick of attitude..."

>spit< These people are neck-deep in attitude as it goes right now, and markets are already fragmenting along these lines. (Look: this is what Fox News is all about and you know it.) This is not "imperfect process". It’s outright fraud. More than just copping to their subjectivities, they should move to positively exploit them while they can.
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—
Newspapers will not disappear, they will decline until they reach a plateau.
They are still very useful and convenient but it will take the younger electronic generation to "rediscover" them at some time in the future.

In the longer run. I can envision people carrying cardboard thin, devices the size of a legal pad and just downloading the latest newspaper, magazine etc. When that happens there will only be two or three national newspapers left, and a few locals.
Written By: kyle N

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