October 30, 2006

The Incredible Shrinking 527 Media: They’ll Blame It on the Internet; They’re at Least Half-Wrong

Newspaper circulations are plummeting (HT Michelle Malkin), even more than I expected. You’ll be stunned at some of the losses.

If the problem is entirely reader migration to the Internet, what explains the New York Post bucking the trend with circ up over 5%? (No, it wasn’t this; besides, that blessed event occurred after the September 30 reporting cutoff.)

It’s not just about giving readers what they want, which is what the Post’s statement about the circ increase focuses on. It’s also giving it to the readers straight in a fair and balanced manner — something too many papers appear determined NOT to do.

Keep in mind that the circ changes noted are only for a six-month-period, NOT a year.

Here are the top 25, along with that 6-month change:

1. USA Today: 2,269,509, (-1.3%)
2. The Wall Street Journal: 2,043,235, (-1.9%)
3. The New York Times: 1,086,798, (-3.5%)
4. Los Angeles Times: 775,766, (-8.0%)
5. The New York Post: 704,011, 5.3%
6. Daily News: 693,382, 1.0%
7. The Washington Post: 656,297, (-3.3%)
8. Chicago Tribune: 576,132, (-1.7%)
9. Houston Chronicle: 508,097, (-3.6%)
10. Newsday: 413,579, (-4.9%)
11. The Arizona Republic, Phoenix: 397,294, (-2.5%)
12. The Boston Globe: 386,415, (-6.7%)
13. The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.: 378,100, (-5.5%)
14. San Francisco Chronicle: 373,805, (-5.3%)
15. The Star Tribune, Minneapolis: 358,887, (-4.1%)
16. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 350,157, (-3.4%)
17. The Plain Dealer, Cleveland: 336,939, (-0.6%)
18. The Philadelphia Inquirer: 330,622, (-7.5%)
19. Detroit Free Press: 328,628, (-3.6%)
20. The Oregonian, Portland: 310,803, (-6.8%)
21. The San Diego Union-Tribune: 304,334, (-3.1%)
22. St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: 288,676, (-3.2%)
23. The Orange County (Calif.) Register: 287,204, (-3.7%)
24. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 276,588, 0.6%
25. The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee: 273,609, (-5.4%)

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UPDATE: If you check against the published list first released six months ago, the math doesn’t work (I hate that when that happens, but I’m just the messenger). Just look at the first two: USA Today’s decline from March’s 2,272,815 to 2,269,506 to September is about 3,300, which is nowhere near a 1.3% loss. The story is similar with the Wall Street Journal, whose drop from 2,049,786 to 2,043,235 is NOT a 1.9% loss.

I have to assume that the Audit Board of Circulation, the source for all of this, made adjustments to the March 31, 2006 numbers after they were first released in early May.

UPDATE 2: A later Editor & Publisher item noted this:

The San Jose Mercury News, for example, is off 9.4% daily and 9.7% Sundays.

Over the past several reporting periods, while the Times lost circulation, it wasn’t nearly as steep. In March 2006, daily circulation at the paper declined 5.4% and Sunday decreased 1.7%. In September 2005, the paper’s daily circulation fell 3.7% and Sunday slipped 3.4%.

Someone needs to tell me what the Merc did to cause such a shrinkage.

As to the LA Times, do the math for the 18-month daily circ shrinkage and it’s stunning: .963 (1 minus Sept. 2005 shrink) x .946 (1 minus March 2006) x .92 (1 minus the 8% above) = .838. The Times has lost 16.2% of its circulation in 18 months.

And Dean Baquet thinks he’s untouchable?

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