Major Declines Continue for Daily Newspapers

It keeps getting uglier for daily newspapers.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations reports that average daily circulation is down 4.6 percent in the April-September period, compared with last year. Last year’s drop was only 2.6 percent.

Editor & Publisher reports that in this environment, publishers are now catering to core readers and subscribers:

It’s too expensive to bulk up circulation in unprofitable areas such as third-party, newspapers in education and bonus day copies. Not in the core market defined by the newspaper? You are out of luck at least for the print edition.

More on that strategy from a Wall Street Journal story today:

One of the biggest declines came at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where weekday circulation fell 13.4%. About half of that drop was the result of a decision to cut the number of counties the publisher delivers to 49 from 74, according to Bob Eickhoff, senior vice president of operations for the paper, owned by Cox Enterprises Inc.

Others are following a similar strategy in light of a growing recognition by publishers that subscribers in faraway locations aren’t valuable enough to advertisers to justify the high cost of getting them the paper.

“Some circulation just isn’t as valuable as others,” said Arizona Republic publisher John Zidich, who attributed half of his Gannett Co. paper’s 5.5% weekday circulation decline to the publisher’s decision to stop delivering to customers more than about 200 miles away.

Such moves are welcome developments for advertisers. “We’d asked newspapers to really focus on paid, quality circulation,” said Dave Walker, chief executive of NSA Media Inc., which buys ads on behalf of big companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. “They’re actually doing what we asked them to do.”

On a related note, the New Jersey Star-Ledger says about 40 percent (!) of its newsroom staff will leave, part of a giant buyout wave:

Executives signaled they wanted about 200 people to depart, but the number of buyout requests was reported to exceed that number.

Jim Willse, editor of the Star-Ledger, told staff Friday that 151 buyout offers were accepted in a newsroom of about 330 people. The paper turned down 17 people who had requested buyouts. Departures will be staggered between now and the end of the year, Mr. Willse said in an interview.

Buyout levels for other departments are slated to be announced in the coming week. The paper’s total staff has been about 1,400.

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One Response

  1. […] and Quality – A Vicious Cycle Posted on October 28, 2008 by lanceturner We noted the latest newspaper circulation numbers just yesterday. Ken Doctor, over at the Content Bridges blog, has an interesting take on why circ. […]

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