November 08, 2005

Circulation Nuggets: From Defenses to Dinosaurs

Newspaper have the unenviable obligation of having to report on their biggest ailment - circulation loss. Romenesko gathered up all the stories written about yesterday's circulation bomb. One clear trend: Big regional papers are shedding non-core circulation faster than you can say rising fuel costs. This means opportunities for smaller local news outlets (local papers, hyper-local web).

Here's a taste of each story:

 San Francisco Chronicle (down 16.6%): ""We cut a lot of what you would call unprofitable circulation around the first of the year. We made a decision that we want quality, profitable circulation that better serves our advertisers." - Publisher Frank Vega.

 Chicago Tribune (down 2.5%): "A report this year by Northwestern University's Media Management Center estimated only 9 percent of people in their 20s will read a newspaper daily by the year 2010 if current trends continue unabated."

 Boston Globe (down 7.7%): Led with the 4 percent decline in the daily circulation of its tabloid competitor, the Boston Herald, even though the Globe's percentage decline was higher. (The Globe said it disclosed its own loss a month earlier.)A Globe executive was quoted saying the paper's "emphasis should be on higher-quality circulation" - a phrase that seems to be a trend (see Chronicle bullet above.)

 New York Post (down 1.7%): Trumpeted the steeper decline (3.7%) of its rival, the Daily News, saying "the battle between New York's two tabloid newspapers is now tighter than ever."

 Atlanta Journal-Constitution (down 7 percent): "Miles Groves, a newspaper consultant in Washington, said some papers have large numbers of Web readers, but they're having differing degrees of success in gaining advertising dollars from this audience. 'Unfortunately, the market really values the print reader more than it does the online reader.'"

 Minneapolis Star Tribune (down 0.3%): Echoes my post yesterday about circulation losses leading to acceleration of advertising losses and quotes an executive of a Minneapolis ad agency saying, "A lot of our money is being allocated from newspapers to online, event marketing or permission-based marketing -- things that are more targeted."

 Houston Chronicle (down 6%): Somewhat defensive story that explains how stricter auditing rules led to lower numbers. Paper's VP for circulation also says gas costs fueled (ahem) decision to eliminate outlying circulation in "San Antonio, Dallas, far South Texas and parts of Louisiana."

 Seattle Times (down 7%): Written against the backdrop of the Times-PI fight over their joint operating agreement, the story reports the Times "also trimmed distribution to outlying areas, including Eastern Washington, where circulation costs outpace newspaper revenues."

 Philadelphia Inquirer (down 3.2%): Quotes newspaper industry Michael Kupinski saying, "The important thing is that we haven't really seen an advertiser push-back." (See this.)

 Baltimore Sun (down 8.5%): Attributes its own losses to "reduction in certain types of promotional programs at schools and hotels" and prints the most apocalyptic quote of the day, from Tom McPhail, a media studies professor at the University of Missouri. He says: "They're falling like a rock and it's going to continue. Only if they morph themselves into 'Google' will they survive. They have to be very innovative, but I think they've missed the boat. They're behind the curve and they're going to become dinosaurs."

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Posted by Tim Porter at November 8, 2005 08:25 AM

Am I the only one who finds the total weight of those quotations depressing?

Posted by: Mark on November 8, 2005 10:45 PM

There is a domino effect of these circulation losses right through the distribution chain. In Australia we have a retail channel of 4,600 independently owned stores which rely on newspapers for more than 50% of store traffic. Every drop in circulation is felt deeply at their cash register. Publishers can move their brand online. These retailers (and I'm one) are less able. While mobile and online offerings will continue to challenge newspaper circulation I would like to see publishers be brave and invest in their over the counter product. There is a market if only they would trust that this market wants quality and not competitions, celebrity stories and gimmicks.

Posted by: Mark Fletcher on November 12, 2005 04:08 PM

@ mark ... you are not the only one. 50% have no just to write it too and the other 49% have holidays *smile*

but i think the same like you :)

greetings from Germany, Berlin

Posted by: seekXL on November 14, 2005 05:54 AM
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