Newspapers down 3.5%; T&G down 4%

posted by Mike on April 28th, 2008

Nationally, newspaper circulation is down 3.5% in the past 6 months:

Print circulation continues on its steep downward slide, the Audit Bureau of Circulations revealed this morning in releasing the latest numbers for some of the country’s largest dailies in the six-month period ending March 31, 2008. When a full analysis appears it is expected to find, according to sources, the biggest dip yet, about 3.5% daily and 4.5 for Sunday.

Worcester Telegram and Gazette daily circulation was 84,754 at this time last year. Worcester Magazine reports it’s now 81,437, a drop of about 4%.

This is not good, but it’s been worse: the past 2 reporting periods had T&G circulation dropping at 2 times faster and 5 times faster than the national average.

I get the first paragraphs of T&G articles via RSS, and I gotta say I found the first paragraph of Dianne Williamson’s Sunday column insulting enough that I didn’t bother to read the article (until this morning).

As most of you know— or maybe you don’t, because you’re watching “American Idol” rather than reading this newspaper — the news business is in trouble.

“[Y]ou’re watching ‘American Idol’ rather than reading this newspaper”? I know this is supposed to be a joke, but I wonder whether it’s also a sign of the disconnect between journalists and readers. Are people no longer subscribing because they’re watching TV, or because they’ve found more useful sources of news and advertising? What’s a better “risk factor” for someone canceling a T&G subscription in 2008, that person’s public engagement, or that person’s age?

What I would like to see the T&G do, speaking as a life-long newspaper fan: take their website seriously, so that I get value by lingering there, rather than wanting to head elsewhere after skimming the headlines.

Brendan Melican:

What may be my biggest frustration where local business is concerned, is watching good business go bad and suffer simply because the owners didn’t want to learn new tricks.


In one sense, circulation data can understate the newspaper industry’s financial challenges. Declining circulation can affect how much a newspaper charges for print advertising, its biggest and most lucrative source of revenue.

But print advertising has been sinking faster than circulation as the slowing economy and new Internet ad platforms like Craigslist have decimated newspaper classified ads, particularly for the help wanted, real estate and automotive categories.

Also: Thoughts from Worcester’s Jeff Barnard, thoughts from Joel Achenbach.

Update: The T&G ran a wire service article on this, but didn’t list their own #s.

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3 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On April 29, 2008 at 12:11 Noah Bombard said:

    I think people are no longer subscribing to newspapers because the information world we live in has drastically changed over the past decade. It’s not that people are more intrested in American Idol then then local news, it’s that the we we process information has changed and is continuing to change.

    For one, we don’t like to pay for information anymore. The Internet has opened a world of free exchange of ideas and information and shelling out money for a newspaper susbcription is becoming an increasingly outmoded way for us to spend our money. We also have more things competing for our attention on a daily basis — we want our news easy to access, simple to digest and we don’t have time to wade through what those of us in the newspaper business have for centuries been telling folks they SHOULD read. The Internet, much to the nail-biting of many an editor, has allowed consumers to ignore what they don’t want to read or what isn’t presented to them in a way that they can digest. The readers are now choosing content. I don’t think that’s all bad.

    I think there will always (or for quite some time) be a place for print journalism, but it will never hold the place it once did. Understanding how people process information and how to get it to them in a way they can use will be key for any news agency. The “eat your brussel sprouts” approach, just isn’t going to work anymore.

  2. On April 29, 2008 at 22:07 Recks said:

    I believe the huge disconnect is between value systems. In this homogeneous world, with a failed economy, anything interesting becomes a challenge to find. International news with little relevence to our daily need or that can release us from our anxieties is worthless junk. Government news today, including the shallow election coverage, is pretty much the same as it was 20 years ago. Erase the names and replace them with current ones. Vietnam for Iraq for example. The point? Propaganda driven junk.

    What is “junk” but stuff that does not serve our need or interest.
    Perhaps people are buying less news papers because, what most larger newspaper print, fails to serve our needs and interest. Why would anybody want junk in their lives? According to the results released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it seems less and less these days.
    Disclaimer: NOT ALL NEWS PAPERS ARE JUNK. They may simply have to eliminate it from appearing in their product.

  3. On April 30, 2008 at 11:08 Mike said:

    “…anything interesting becomes a challenge to find.”

    My experience is exactly the opposite of this. I spend probably the same amount of time reading as I did 20 years ago, but with Boing Boing, Romenesko, Wormtown Taxi, etc., the chances that I’m reading something I’m *really excited about* are much higher than they were.

    The haystack is unfathomably bigger than it was, but it’s so much easier to find the needles that the overall amount of junk is irrelevant.

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