Posted by: Jon Fine on November 8, 2005
The latest circulation results for newspapers, courtesy of Audit Bureau of Circulations, reveal an interesting tiering effect. The biggest-of-the-big held on reasonably well; the major metros just below them got killed, and smaller papers did somewhere in between.
Top 20 chart can be found here. As an industry, newspapers’ daily circulation declined 2.6% and the fifty biggest newspapers’ daily circulation declined 3.5%.
Half-full alert: The three biggest newspapers—the national triumvirate of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York TImes—only fell 0.4%.
Half-empty alert: The downside thereof is that both USA Today and the New York Times significantly increased their use of seriously discounted subscriptions. (These are reported under the rubric of “other paid” in the Audit Bureau report; the prototypical example of other paid circulation is copies of, say, of USA Today purchased in bulk and delivered to hotel rooms.) But the Journal actually reduced “other paid” circulation, according to a report published by Prudential Equity Group analyst Steven N. Barlow (not available online).
If one dared be optimistic about any of this, which is difficult, the Journal’s example suggests that there are broader audiences available to serious, strong content, particularly if you can sell it to a national audience.
Major newspapers that posted notably lousy circulation results despite significantly stepping up their “other paid” circulation include the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (daily circulation down 7.6%; other paid circulation up 11.9%); the Cleveland Plain Dealer (daily circulation down 4.5%; other paid circulation up 11.2%); the New York Daily News (daily circulation down 3.7%; other paid circulation up 29.2%); and the Los Angeles Times (daily circulation down 3.8%; other paid circulation up 43.9% or about 8%, depending on how you’re counting)
The Newspaper Association of America’s response to more depressing circ numbers is to try to move advertisers away from buying newspapers based on (declining) circulation, and move them towards buying on total audience.
I’m sure advertisers will gladly go along with this.