Monday was all about the Audit Bureau of Circulation report, and the news was as hideous as expected. Rather than repeat the numbers, we’ll point you to Editor & Publisher‘s overview story, the list of the largest 25 dailies, the largest 25 Sunday papers and the papers that actually grew circulation.

Big markets fared the worst. The Miami Herald, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Dallas Morning News all reported sickening daily circulation declines of 8.5% or more. Some of the contraction is no doubt due to publishers’ efforts to rein in free and heavily discounted circulation, but the overall trend is clear: The top 10 metropolitan daily newspapers in the U.S. (note that this excludes the nationally cirulated USA Today and Wall Street Journal) collectively lost more than 235,000 daily readers. The Sunday numbers are even more staggering: more than 635,000 readers lost in the top 10 markets in just one year.

There were no clear patterns among the daily figures. On Sunday, it was a case of the bigger they were, the harder they fell. The five biggest markets averaged a 6.6% drop, while the 21st through 25th largest papers averaged a 4.2% decline. Patterns were harder to find in the daily numbers. There were a few bright spots: 12 dailies did manage to show gains. But their circulation averages about 100,000, while the 10 largest papers average north of 630,000. And they were all down.

Alan Mutter does a flash analysis and notes that daily circulation in the U.S. is at its lowest level since 1946. Considering that population has more than doubled since then, that adds up to a 50% decline in readership. Sadly, the demographic trends offer little relief. The post-war era was the beginning of a surge in population and in readership. But as we’ve noted repeatedly, today’s kids and young adults don’t read newspapers and aren’t likely to start. The readership pig in the newspaper python is the over-55 crowd, which isn’t desirable to advertisers and which won’t be much of a factor in 15 or 20 years.

Layoff log

The Orange County Register, whose 11.9% daily circulation decline was the largest among the top 25 dailies, will lay off 80 to 90 people, or about five percent of its workforce. This is the third round of layoffs in a year for Orange County Register Communications, which is the Register’s parent. That’s either a sign of poor management or a completely unpredictable market. The worst way to cut expenses is by dribs and drabs. It saps morale and spreads fear among the survivors.

The Raleigh News and Observer downplayed the news that it will offer buyouts to about a quarter of its staff. No more than 1% to 2% of the employees are expected to take the deal.

WSJ’s Mystery Man Demystified

The New York Times profiles Robert Thomson, the de factor editor of The Wall Street Journal in the wake of Marcus Brauchli’s abrupt resignation last week. The generous profile portrays Thomson as a talented journalist with loads of people skills. In previous assignments, his staff reportedly loved him. His reluctance to cut headcount would make him an unlikely choice to initiate mass layoffs at the Journal. He’s also got Rupert Murdoch’s ear.

One Reason Why the FT is Ascendant

Editors Weblog is running a series of interviews about the future of journalism, and the latest one is with Dan Bogler, Managing Editor of Robert Thomson’s old employer, the Financial Times. If you want to hear the perspective of an editor who gets it, read this interview. Bogler has no illusions about what’s happening to his industry. We’ve gone from zero videos on our website to over 100 per month in the last 18 months. That’s part of the continuum: it’s us doing the same thing in different distribution channels,” he says.

Asked if the golden age of investigative reporting is over, he responds matter-of-factly, “The idea that journalists have to do long-term, deep, undercover investigations where they reveal something months later – I don’t think it works like that anymore. [J]ournalists working under cover, developing sources and breaking big scandals is less likely; but revealing news that people don’t want out there, on a short term basis, uncovering a scandal and having it come to light, that’s more likely.”

Bogler betrays no defensiveness, resentment or belligerence. He’s adapting to change. With editors like this at the helm, its no wonder the FT is coming on so strong in the U.S. market.

And Finally…

Is he a blogger? A journalist? A marketer? James Arndorfer is all three. His BrewBlog frequently breaks news or casts new light upon happenings in the beer industry. But Arndorfer is a full-time employee of Miller Brewing, which openly supports BrewBlog. Rival Anheuser-Busch is a favorite target for negative news or snarky analysis, but Arndorfer says he isn’t afraid to tweak the nose of his employer. It’s all very new media-ish. Read the WSJ profile.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 at 7:13 am and is filed under BusinessModel, Circulation, Citizen Journalism, Demographics, Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment

  1. May 12, 2008 @ 8:56 am



    Here is an interesting example of how travel advertising is going online…
    http://www.corporate.canada.travel/corp/media/app/en/ca/newsItem.do?articleId=72660

    Posted by Glenn