Newspaper Circulation Continues to Decline…

    by Paul Lamb
    November 6, 2007

    A good post on declining circulation and what that means in the context of the Web in this TechCrunch posting.

    “Readership of newspapers has continued to decline in the United States as more readers turn to online sources for news, according to the NY Times.

    The Audit Bureau of Circulations figures show that newspaper readership dropped 3% compared with the year before.


    Some newspapers fared better than others, with the US Today recording a 1% increase in circulation, along with the LA Times 0.5% and the Philadelphia Enquirer at 2.5%.

    We’ve written about the decline in print media many times before. Most recently I noted that 2008 may well be the year we see big shut downs in magazines, and rightfully so: tech magazines in particular compete with online publications that print news when it happens, as opposed to 6-8 weeks later. However newspapers aren’t quite as doomed as some may suggest, with the World Association of Newspapers reporting that to February 2007 global newspaper circulation was up 9.95 percent over five years and 2.36 percent over twelve months.

    The decline of print media isn’t an international story, it’s one that’s very much focused on the United States, and to a lesser extent the English speaking world. The problem today with print media in the United States is that it has yet to have undergone a massive market restructuring that has occurred in other countries. In Australia in the 1980s, early 1990’s the number of daily newspapers shrunk massively in a major round of market restructuring lead by News Corp. My native New South Wales (pop 6.8m) went from four local daily newspapers to two, excluding the national papers but published in Sydney The Australian (think USA Today) and The Australian Financial Review (think WSJ). Four of the six states in Australia (Queensland (pop 4.3m), Tasmania (not a lot), Western Australia (pop 2.2m) and South Australia (1.5m)) were left with only one local daily newspaper. Compare this to some similar US states; Massachusetts (6.4m pop) has 31 daily newspapers according to Newspaperlinks.com. Nevada (2.4m), with a similar population to Western Australia has 6 daily newspapers. The problem with newspapers isn’t the web alone, its excessive choice in a declining market. Newsprint has a future, but not in a cut throat marketplace that provides more choice than the market can consume.”


    Do you agree with this assertion that too many choices is the major reason for the decline in print media?

    Tagged: circulation media newspapers print
    • Readership of newspapers has continued to decline in the United States as more readers turn to online sources for news…

      This is a frequently stated, but poorly informed and overly simplistic analysis. It ignores the breadth of purposes that lead people to “read newspapers.” The competition for time and attention is not merely from other “news media,” but from a broad array of newly available solutions for personal utility and entertainment.

      Journalists are particularly susceptible to this myopia.

      There was a time, not too long ago, when the Sunday newspaper was a great way to discover what houses might be for sale in the neighborhood. The Saturday paper was a great way to discover what cars are on the market. Today print is a poor tool for those purposes relative to the many online real estate and automotive resources, including those operated by the dealers and brokers themselves.

      Similarly, the rise of network and eventually cable television eventually displaced the afternoon newspaper from its role as a primary source of evening relaxation and entertainment fodder.

      The point I am making is that newspapers, as omnibus products in an increasingly specialized universe, are suffering for reasons having nothing to do with what most journalists would tend to define as their roles.

    • On its face – and I doubt Paul’s clear rephrasing is accidental – the proposition that “too many choices is the major reason for the decline in print media” is absurd.

      More choices equals less demand?

      There aren’t too many ways that make sense, and all of them mean we’ve got a lot bigger problems than declining newspaper circulation.

      Explanation 1: People are avoiding buying a newspaper because of the mental cost of choosing one. Once there is only one chocie, they will buy a newspaper.

      Not a good sign for markets, free speech, rational thought, etc.

      Explanation 2: With the fatter revenues of absolute monopoly, newspapers would be better, so more people will want one.

      Also doesn’t fit too well with theories and evidence of market competition, free thought, democracy.

      Sounds like a self-serving theory put forth by Rupert Murdoch and his ilk seeking greater media concentration and power. But that’s a whole other blog post.

      It isn’t as if the newspaper market in the U.S. is a model of diversity (related content: the ethnic press is the only sector with increasing subscriptions).

      I hate for facts to interfere with any theory (don’t worry, I have backups), but what has circulation actually done in Australia?

    • Dave Livingston

      All of the rationales posted here attemt to explain the decline in newspaper circulation avoid the basic reason for its cause, that newsrooms are infested by Leftist radicals out-ot-touch with or hostile toward American social norms.

      For instance, many if not most large newspapers are hostile toward the Second Amendment & gun owners. Upwards of 72% of Americans are self-identified Christians. There are approximately 90 million gun owners in the USA. Why would those folks buy propagannda attacking them and their values?

      Not all papers in the U.S. have shown steep declines in circulation. The basically conservative “New York Post” hasn’t.

      Likewise, the militantly Leftist TV networks’ ABC, CBS & NBC so-called news programs, actually Leftist propaganda, have exhibited steep declines in numbers of viewers, but more balanced “Fox News” has grown dramaticallly in popularity since its inception.

      As long as what is offered to the American people as the news permits some the choice of ignoring those Leftist propaganda mouthpieces they are going to continue to decline. It’s that simple.

      Although in recent years the G.O.P. has seen a steep decline in numbers & the Democratic Party has grown, there’s been no corresponding increase in the number of self-described Liberals. I.e., the USA remains a Center/Right nation. We’re still a nation of Christian church-goers & gun owners. This regardless newsrooms have become increasingly arrogantly and militantly Leftist.

    • Raymond Kidwell

      They don’t report the news plain and simple. I have personally known of many local crimes and stories that never get reported in the paper. You open up the paper and its the same articles that are in every other paper nation wide. Wow what a coincidence! Usually its uninformative “feds drop interest rate” or sports news, or “Americans happy about change” or something absurd. Same with TV news. Change the channel and the exact same news stories are on every channel. What a coincidence that they all happened to go out and scoop the same uneventful stories about Britney Spears underware. No its not, the government spoon feeds them news stories and its all controlled by the same few media moguls. It’s propaganda. Let’s take what’s in the news now- economic woes. The economy is bad! Well people already know this. Why report it 24/7 for 6 months? If the goal was to inform it would be reported a few times now and then just so you know. Yet it is constantly repeated in order to influence public perceptions and opinions. People get tired of being spoon fed propaganda and as soon as there is any kind of alternative many people flock to it. There are other reasons, but for me this is why I don’t read the paper or watch the news. There’s nothing high brow or informative in it.
      I’m going to open the New York times website:
      Top story fares are being raised for public trans. Is that the biggest news in the world today? Second story- hey what do you know- economic woes (I must be psychic since I mentioned that above- no its in the newspaper everyday). Next story again about the bailouts and such. Same stuff. Clinton’s going to mexico: okay doesn’t seem like big news. Israeli dude promises peace. Same story for the past 15 years. None of it is news (not new) none of it interesting. None of it really informative to any large degree and that’s the front page! Now let’s look at alternative news:
      Ron Paul Questions Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Geithner on Capitalism – interesting.

      Now The Chinese Pile On The New World Order Call For Global Currency – did not know that.
      Politico: Bilderbergers Excite Conspiracists – that’s deep.

      Hey what about cutting edge scientific break throughs or studies? New York times offers a debate on how much is inherited by genes. It is a misleading and false article! I’ve read a lot about that. Why doesn’t New York times report the true scientific research? Too informative I guess.
      What about laws being passed in congress? Where I can I read them in their entirity instead of misleading and brief over views? What about the 3,000 wars the United States is waging in South America, Africa, the Middle East, East Europe etc.? Never any mention of those. What about the other 20 or so political parties on the ballot besides Democrat and Republican? What about when other national leaders criticize the U.S. why are their statements almost never in the media? What about all these protests and events that never get reported? What about people who criticize the current status quo why are they not ever given a voice in the media (when was the last time you head somebody arguing against affirmitive action in the media? Yet it has been successfully challenged and over turned in several states and has a large following of people who are against it). Where the heck is the news? It’s a propaganda paper with lots of annoying ads and government agendas.

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