Major newspapers bleeding readers

The Audit Bureau of Circulation released circulation figures for the nation’s daily newspapers based on the reporting period ended in September, and the news isn’t good. Only four of the top 25 showed any gains and, of those, only USA Today managed an increase of even 1%. CORRECTION: As noted by ExSubNuke in comments, The Philadelphia Inquirer posted a daily gain of 2.31%. The numbers were even worse for Sunday circulation, the key day for advertising revenue. Jennifer Saba reports for Editor and Publisher:

According to an analysis of ABC figures, for 538 daily U.S. newspapers, circulation declined 2.5% to 40,689,617. For 609 papers that filed on Sunday, overall circulation dropped 3.5% to 46,771,486. The percentages are based on comparisons from the same period a year ago and represent the majority of the paper’s reporting into ABC — less than half in the country.

For The New York Times, daily circulation fell 4.51% to 1,037,828 and Sunday plunged 7.59% to 1,500,394, at least partly due to a price increase though executives with the paper say the decline from the hike was less than anticipated.

Read the full story at the link above. A list of the top 25 dailies’ numbers is here.

This is not a new trend, of course: newspapers have been losing readership as an industry since the peak in 1975. The first casualties were the afternoon dailies, many of whom were published by the same companies which put out the morning dailies in their cities, so “consolidation” saved the companies some costs. Afternoon papers had traditionally been targeted to a more blue-collar audience, including factory shift workers who didn’t have time to read the morning editions before going to work.

Functional literacy has been declining in this country for roughly the same period (mirroring, perhaps not coincidentally, the creation and expansion of the federal Department of Education), and undoubtedly played a part as more and more people began to get their news from television, including cable news networks which could deliver breaking news instantly.

It has been the proliferation of news sources on the internet, though, which has probably driven the stake through the heart of newspaper readership. The most faithful newspaper readers are (and have been for decades) the older segment of the population – also the least likely to take advantage of computer capabilities. They aren’t getting any younger, of course, but many of them are now also discovering the internet.

As fast as technology advances, no one can safely predict the future of news and information, but it is safe to say it will not involve cutting down trees to deliver it the next day.

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