Monday, October 30, 2006


It's getting a little scary. Circulation at major newspapers took another big tumble over the last six months. The Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post weren't spared, of course, though they did better than the Los Angeles Times (down eight percent) and some others. According to the Denver Business Journal:

Separately, daily circulation for the Post dropped 3.2 percent to 255,935 copies from 264,300 and the News daily circulation fell nearly 3 percent to 255,675 from 263,425 copies a year ago.

That's on top of the 4.7 and 4.3 percent drops, respectively, in the last reporting period. The Journal dissects the new figures:
The Saturday News fell to 552,567 copies compared to 593,747 last year and the Sunday Post dropped to 694,053 compared [to] 725,178 copies last year. The numbers include a category of distribution called "other paid circulation" that includes copies paid for by advertisers, but distributed to homes and business that didn't order the copies, or those given to schools for free.

Without those "other paid" copies, the combined dailies circulate 452,957 copies during the week -- 221,366 copies for the Post and 231,591 copies of the News.

The "other paid" category is counted in total paid circulation, but it is considered less desirable circulation for advertisers. Many newspapers have moved away from distributing and counting the "other paid" copies, also called "third party sales," as more financial industry research firms have begun tracking such sales, according to a July 2005 edition of trade publication Editor & Publisher.

Huh. You learn something new every day. Or you will be beaten. So it's even worse than reported for the Denver dailies, a lot worse. But it's the longterm trend that's really scary. The Journal again:

Combined circulation for the dailies has decreased 39 percent since the two papers entered a joint operating agreement [JOA] in 2001 that combined the business operations of the two papers but maintained separate, competitive editions of the two newspapers.

The Post, owned by Denver-based Media News Group, and the News, owned by E.W. Scripps compete head to head Monday through Friday. The News has the sole Saturday edition and the Post has the exclusive Sunday edition.

Combined daily circulation was 839,496 copies in 2000, the year prior to the JOA.

The Journal seems to be pointing a finger at the Post/News JOA as the culprit in the circulation decline, but Michelle Malkin, who linked to the E&P report, notes that only one major newspaper defied the trend, and offers some advice: "Hemorrhaging left-wing newspapers could learn a thing or two about gaining and keeping readers from the NYPost, don't ya think?"

No, I don't. They're beyond learning, as a cruise through Poynter Online (which has the story) any day of the week will confirm. The newspaper industry is old, arthritic, and crotchety. We should wrap it well in warm blankets and give it (arsenic-laced) tea. I want my inheritance.

Update 7:29 MST: Neither local daily has the circulation story yet.

Update II: I cut a paragraph of the Denver Business Journal story mentioning that the Denver Newspaper Agency just announced it was cutting up to 5% of its workers.

Update III: They better bar the windows at the Boston Globe. The paper lost 6.7 percent of its daily circulation and 10 percent of its Sunday circulation. In six months.

Update IV: Both papers have the story now. The Post, after noting the coming layoffs at the Denver Newspaper Agency (they never seem to refer to it as the DNA) consoles itself with this last graf:

Even so, the agency said in a statement that its total brand audience, print and Web readers combined, "has increased nearly 1 million a month over the same six-month reporting period to a total monthly audience of 8.3 million."

A million non-subscribing readers, of course.

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