August 18, 2003

Sunday, Sunday

Editor & Publisher reports on the readership decline of the Sunday newspaper, a worrisome occurrence since Sundays have been the industry’s strongest battlement in its ongoing circulation war.

The piece examines the downward trend (circulation reached a “high point in 1993 when 884 Sunday papers had a circulation volume of 62.5 million;” it has since dropped to 59 million, according to NAA figures), offers dire forecasts (a demographer suggests that only 1-in-4 households will read a paper by 2007) and surveys techniques that some publishers are using to increase circulation (lowering prices and bagging papers).

The most interesting comment, though, addresses of the “no-time-to-read” issue – the common, and I believe inaccurate, assumption that would-be readers eschew newspapers because their hectic lives leave no room for newspaper reading. The story reports:

“A 2000 study by Clark, Martire and Bartolomeo Inc. for the NAA found that while time-poverty was an issue for 34% of people reading less on Sunday, people who are reading more on Sunday seem to have busier lifestyles -- and there was no connection between sense of time pressure and frequency of readership. Similarly, the Readership Institute's 2002 Impact Study found that light readers report 11.7 hours of free time on the weekend, only slightly less than heavy readers' 12.1 hours.”

Says Greg Martire, a partner in the firm cited above: "The no-time-to-read argument was an argument I've heard for 25 years. But the Internet blossomed, and they have time for that. It always seemed to me it was a polite way of explaining why people don't read the newspaper. ... What it comes down to is, 'It's not worth my time.'"

Is this news to us? Certainly, editorial organizations have for years debated ways to make the daily and Sunday content more compelling and I’m not going to pretend I have the solution. I do believe, though, that a more radical overhaul is needed, a transformation that goes beyond story mix and writing style, and one that includes a more intimate partnership between print and electronic, more reader involvement and a restructured newsrooms that attract more innovative journalists.


 Editor & Publisher Sunday Will Never Be the Same

Posted by Tim Porter at August 18, 2003 08:43 AM

People do not read because they are just plain f------ lazy, selfish-self-interested, and want the info screamed at them from the tube where they do not have to concentrate nor really think. That's what's happening in America. Of course this feeds into my theory that "people" (there IS a reason for the quotes) also don't read because the news might require them to take responsibility for something and that's the LAST thing people want to do - take responsibility for their lives - the quality of their lives. They want all of that to be SOMEBODY ELSE'S responsibility. The caps are needed because this subject really makes me furious and sad. How can people not get up in the morning and not just feel the absolute need to read the news with a good cup of coffee or tea or on the john or in the tub or on the bus or train. I don't care where they read it. Just BECOME INFORMED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TAKE SOME RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WORLD NOT JUST THEMSELVES. HELLO OUT THERE... is anybody listening?

Posted by: d rabin on August 18, 2003 11:31 AM
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