How’s the T&G doing?

Last year, tycoon John Henry bought the Worcester Telegram & Gazette from the New York Times in a package deal. This year, Florida-based Halifax Media bought the T&G from him.

Documents leaked during the first sale showed T&G daily circulation at 57,000 and annual revenue at $49M, down 20% over 5 years. As a business, the T&G was fading fast.

Henry bought $70M of properties from the NYT. The T&G’s value was estimated at $7M. Surprisingly, Halifax possibly paid $19M for it. With Halifax in charge, there was a massive round of layoffs. 29 of 80 newsroom staffers left the paper, mostly layoffs with a few resignations.

It’s hard for an outsider to understand the real effect of these layoffs, and the other newsroom layoffs they’ve had in recent years. So let’s see if there’s been a change in the crudest journalistic metric, the number of Worcester stories printed each day.
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Red Sox co-owner buys T&G

I have occasionally blogged about the Worcester Telegram & Gazette here, so it’s worth mentioning that the T&G, along with the Globe and other properties, was recently sold to John Henry.

Cutting loose the Boston Globe may be a lifeline for the New York Times:

The Times bought the Boston Globe in 1993 for $1.1bn. It acquired the Telegram in 1999 for another $300m, and its interest in Metro Boston after that. In 20 years, in a story of upheaval, shortsightedness – even by 1993, you could have guessed buying a newspaper for top dollar might not be the greatest bet – and helplessness, the newspaper industry has gone from its peak to its bottom.

On Friday, the Times announced it was selling the lot for $70m. And that does not include the combined pension liabilities.

I haven’t seen anyone even try to guess how much the T&G by itself should be worth. More on those pension liabilities:

Mr. Henry paid $70 million, but The Boston Globe has approximately $110 million in pension obligations, which The New York Times Company is keeping on its books.

T&G circulation down 9.9%, newspapers up 0.7%

I’ve been following newspaper circulation stats for a few years now. At this point, my big takeaway is that they rejigger the circulation formula so often that any “trend” a layperson spots is as likely to be an artifact of the rejiggering as something real.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

Total print and digital circulation was 79,958 Sunday and 74,563 daily. Circulation totals measure paid or verified newspapers delivered and purchased and digital subscriptions.

Sunday circulation declined by 8.8 percent and daily circulation by 9.9 percent. Nearly 60 percent of the Sunday decline and nearly half the daily decline resulted from ABC rules changes on digital access and included the T&G’s early adoption of more stringent ABC requirements before the new rules went into effect, said Tony Simollardes, T&G director of readership and circulation.

Audit Bureau of Circulations:

Fueled largely by increases in digital circulation and branded editions, daily circulation for the 618 newspapers reporting comparable multiday averages rose .68 percent.

T&G daily circulation stats:

There’s an interesting case to be made that focusing on raw numbers in the information economy is only one option, and perhaps not the most fun option. It’s definitely the business the T&G is in, though.

T&G circulation 79,168 under new system

The Audit Bureau of Circulations, using a new system, is measuring daily circulation of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette at 79,168. They note that because the new system measures certain aspects of circulation differently, these numbers shouldn’t be compared with previous numbers.

What the heck, let’s make a chart anyway.

Boston Globe:

Under the new system, total circulation is now divided into paid circulation for newspaper copies that are bought by the consumer and a new “verified circulation’’ category for copies bought by third parties, such as colleges. The new methodology also counts electronic editions and will break out readership numbers for those who get their news using a paid website, like, or through a mobile device or e-reader.

T&G apparently can pull out part of the report for a direct comparison of readership numbers, if not daily circulation: “T&G readership is up 5.6 percent”:

“While the many ABC rules changes make any comparisons to prior years problematic, our readership remains strong,” said Tony Simollardes, director of readership and circulation.

“The 5.6 percent increase in total readership documented by Scarborough Research as part of the ABC report can be compared directly to the previous year and indicates our print and online products are striking the right chord with our Central Massachusetts audience,” he said.

T&G circulation down 9.3 percent; other papers down 5 percent

New York Times:

Figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that overall weekday circulation at 635 newspapers declined 5 percent from circulation in the same six months last year. The decline last year was at more than twice that rate.

Boston Globe:

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, daily circulation at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette fell 9.3 percent from 73,207 last year to 66,397 this year.

This is not as bad as the declines at the Globe and other papers, but the T&G is still dropping fast. I’m looking around to see if there’s an explanation forthcoming–the paywall, for example.

Update: Joe presses me on the paywall issue, and on second thought the paywall probably helped their circulation numbers. At least, when they turned off their paywall a few years back, they lost like 6% of their circulation. So if they’re still using the same formula to calculate circulation, the paywall presumably helped total paid circulation. Dan Kennedy thinks it will. And supposedly the T&G’s unique visitors went up with the paywall!

That said, I don’t know anything about the subtleties of circulation calculation, and so I’m still waiting for the T&G’s explanation here.

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Worcester T&G paywall begins today

The Worcester Telegram & Gazette’s long-awaited paywall is finally up today.

The cost for an online subscription is $14.95 per month.

After viewing 10 articles in one calendar month, you’ll be required to get a paid site account.

We’re currently (though not for long) print subscribers, so I could register for a free site account, but I’m curious about the technical details of the firewall, and so I haven’t registered yet. (Karl Hakkarainen blogs his registration experience here.)

This morning, I’m finding that deleting my cookies is enough to enable access to previously-denied articles. Seems like refusing cookies works, too. I admire that when their paywall fails, it fails in favor of the reader. That’s real user-friendliness, and it takes guts.

This Jeff Barnard rant from April is still worth reading.

Update: Here’s a bug someone sent in, and which I’ve confirmed. (Let me know if it doesn’t happen to you.)

You know how if you visit a T&G page, and leave it open for a few minutes, it refreshes? This seems to count as an additional article view.
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Newspapers down 8.7%; T&G down 9.5%

Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

The T&G reported paid circulation declines about on par with expectations because of recent pricing changes; and also continued to report significant growth in its online audience. Daily circulation declined 9.5 percent to 71,034 Monday through Saturday; and Sunday declined 10.3 percent to 81,461.

Looking only at weekday circulation, and comparing the annual Oct-Mar reporting periods, this represents a 16.2% decline in circulation over the past 3 years.

  • Oct 2006-March 2007: 84,754
  • Oct 2007-March 2008: 81,437
  • Oct 2008-March 2009: 78,479
  • Oct 2009-March 2010: 71,034

The audience for the paper’s website is expanding, but they’re planning to erect a paywall. Jeff points out that the # of unique visitors to the site is growing 3 times as fast as page views.

T&G circulation down 3.6%; nationwide papers down 7%

According to numbers in today’s Telegram & Gazette (available in April but not published anywhere till now), daily circulation at the paper is down 3.6% from the same period last year, from 81,437 to 78,479.

Newspaper circulation nationwide was down 7%. The T&G has been loosing circulation faster than average for the past few years; this much-better-than-average showing is a welcome surprise.

Newspapers down 3.5%; T&G down 4%

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.

Newspapers down 2.6%; T&G down 5%

From the Boston Globe:

Nationwide, average daily paid newspaper circulation declined 2.6 percent in the six months that ended Sept. 30, compared with the previous year . . . .

Daily paid circulation at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette fell 5.3 percent.

If this sounds familiar, you may be thinking of this story from May: Newspapers down 2%; T&G down 11%. At least the local loss is slowing. The T&G covered the general story, but didn’t mention their own stats.