By paulgillin | April 27, 2009 - 9:18 am - Posted in Facebook, Hyper-local, Paywalls

Some of journalism’s most prestigious brands took it on the chin in the new round of circulation figures released this morning by the Audit Bureau of Control. Collectively, the 395 newspapers reporting numbers experienced a 7% year-over-year decline, with some of the worst declines occurred at big-city titles in the Northeast.

There was little good news, except for The Wall Street Journal‘s continued gravity-defiance. The paper squeaked out a .61% circulation gain and is now more than twice as large as The New York Times.  Some other troubled papers, like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, also showed only minor declines in the most recent six months.

USA Today, which has managed to maintain relative stability in previous reports, fell with a thud, dropping almost 7.5%.  Marriott Corp.’s recent decision to stop delivering the paper to hotel guest rooms won’t affect the numbers until the next reporting period

These figures shouldn’t be taken as a snapshot in time but rather as a trend. Newspaper circulation falls for all sorts of reasons, including voluntary cutbacks by publishers.  Trends become evident only over multiple reporting periods. With that in mind, the titles listed below have to be considered the most at risk, since they have shown average declines in the double digits over the last two reporting periods.


3/31/09 Report

9/30/08 Report

Houston Chronicle

-13.96 %


New York Post



San Francisco Chronicle



Boston Globe



Philadelphia Inquirer



Newark Star-Ledger



Atlanta Journal Constitution




Jeff Jarvis asks journalists to focus on where they add value and to stop doing everything else. “If you can’t imagine why someone would link to what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it,” he writes. Jarvis cites the example of TV reporters dashing from place to place to tape standups in front of iconic institutions. They’re not reporting, they’re simply relating commodity information in a contextual setting. Why are TV stations spending money on this?  “When we cut out all the incredible waste – those standups and rewrites and frills and blather – and when we have an ecosystem that rewards unique value, as the internet does, then I think we could end up with more journalism, more reporting,” Jarvis says.

Robert Picard tweaks bankrupt newspaper companies for paying large executive bonuses, calling the argument that said such payments are necessary to retain good people “hollow.” Few people are leaving good jobs in a time when nobody’s hiring, Picard writes. Bankruptcy is a time to restructure, not just get out from under your obligations. The good news: Picard believes “Most newspapers… are surviving the downturn and will be serving their communities for many years.”

The Springdale (Ark.) Morning News has laid off nine newsroom workers and an unspecified number of employees in other groups, reports in its newsroom, in addition to cuts in other departments within the paper, reports KSFM television. The paper will also reduce its size and page count. The station’s spare report is typical of those we see on TV websites. If most of these stations didn’t have newspapers and wire services feeding them copy, they wouldn’t have any news at all.

The Los Angeles Daily News laid off at least four more newsroom employees, according to a blog maintained by its Newspaper Guild chapter.

Boston Globe unions staged a rally last Friday to save the paper, which faces a shutdown decision at the end of this week. Speeches by union members were reminiscent of the greatest Samuel Gompers oratory, only the problem is that the Globe‘s parent is flat on its back. Cutting executive pay isn’t going to close an $85 million profitability shortfall.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reached agreement with the union representing 300 newsroom workers that gives the publisher $1.7 million in cost relief. The deal includes a 3% cut in base wages, a 30% cut in merit pay, two days of unpaid furlough in each of the next two years, a freeze in some pensions and a reduction in severance.



This entry was posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 9:18 am and is filed under Facebook, Hyper-local, Paywalls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. April 27, 2009 @ 11:05 am

    Like we have been saying, the end is coming for many major newspapers, likely in 2010.

    As for Jarvis’ piece, he is right on the money. In our market, every news station cuts to a live feed at 11:02 to have a reporter in front of a school/police station/event when the said event happened 6 hours earlier! How does this make sense? Do they think we’re impressed someone is still there? How much are they burning in salaries of the camera crew, driver and personality doing this?

    And we thought newspaper people were dumb.

    Posted by Newspaper Fan
  2. April 27, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

    Yeah, that’s the next website: television death watch . com (its available as of 2009/03/27 @ 23;30.)

    We’re just waiting for Fox news to shake things up some more. Fair and balanced? Give me a break. I’ve always maintained that Fox had the most liberal handicapped hiring policies for their news anchors.

    In fact, to get a job as a Fox news anchor, it helps to be brain dead, to have no taste and to be able to parrot whatever the boss tells you however he wants you to parrot it.

    You know that Fox is going to be the only news left; until the shareholders start asking why Rupert Murdoch even bothers to waste his money.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  3. April 28, 2009 @ 8:38 am

    What these numbers don’t tell especially in the case of the AJC are major strategic moves:

    Two footprint changes – June 2008: 74 counties to 49 counties and
    January 2009: 49 counties to 27 counties
    Elimination of the printed newspaper for the News For Kids program
    and migration to online platform
    Single copy and home delivery price increases
    Continued reductions in categories that are of no advertiser value,
    such as sponsored papers

    Posted by AJC Fan
  4. April 28, 2009 @ 9:37 am

    Re: AJC. That’s exactly right. The paper went through a major cost-cutting initiative that included voluntary circ reductions. That’s why you shouldn’t look at any one six-month period as representing a trend.

    Posted by Paul Gillin
  5. April 28, 2009 @ 11:01 am

    Paul, its a trend…

    Circulation is down and it doesn’t matter why.

    The end result is another permanently empty spot on the rack.

    Just like we’ll need a website called television death watch . com, we need a website called magazine death watch . com.

    Magazines are on the chipping block too:

    Okay, that one sort of deserves to die. But its definitely part of a trend.

    The fact is that the internet offers a better ROI for just advertising, never mind everything else, like a no-noise, no competition message reception environment on an advertiser’s own website, the opportunity for sales and customer data capture, shipping tracking, CRM, and problem resolution in private.

    Those advertisers, they’re gone. Fuggedaboudid.

    The only thing left to use the press for the press is discovery of consumer novelties and driving people to a website, and frankly, there’s Google for that.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  6. April 28, 2009 @ 11:23 am

    So we absolutely need and must find a new means of sustaining journalism. A NEW business Model.

    Yeah, I’m back to my old argument about using the postal service.

    The postal service is an old organization which used to carry meaningful messages and not just bulk mail junk.

    It can spread some of the “news” privately via RSS, for money.

    Things like the information about the spreading flu epidemic would not do any good coming too late.

    (Man I haven’t even started the course and my writing is already becoming more, uh, journalistic. [Short, punchy sentences written in an active voice, {Thank you Sir Harold Evans for writing the five volume series on “Editing and Design.” } ;-])

    Posted by msbpodcast
  7. April 28, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

    Re: Magazine Death Watch. Already done:

    Posted by paulgillin