Monday, April 27, 2009

Arrested Development

The latest newspaper circulation figures came out this week, and--quick!--run for the hills. Things look worse than ever. The industry decline didn't take a holiday. In fact, it accelerated.

The Orlando Sentinel -- down 9.4 percent to 206,205 daily circulation
The South Florida Sun Sentinel -- off 10.4 percent to 195,522 daily
The Los Angeles Times -- fell by 6.5 percent to 703,181
Baltimore Sun -- plummeted 9.6 to 210,098
Chicago Tribune -- declined 7.4 percent to 501,202

Editor and Publisher rightly points out that the chain's vaunted redesigns have not pulled the newspapers out of a serious slump. So much for design and form over content. The 50-50 ad-to-news ratio, fewer pages and less reporting are not fooling anyone. Less is less, not more.

At this rate of decline, the Orlando Sentinel will fall below 200,000 in daily circulation for the next circulation reporting period--about 187,000 daily circulation to be precise. At this rate of decline, newspapers have no choice but to go for online eyeballs whole hog, and even that strategy won't work because the revenue generated won't be enough.

If it's any consolation, some papers at other chains turned in an even worse performance than Tribune's. Circulation at McClatchy's Miami Herald was down a whopping 15 percent. The St. Pete Times' circulation fell 10.4 percent.


Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who gets the sense that you are enjoying this?

That is called bitterness.

A former colleague.--

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you're the only one with this perception, but I don't share it with you. Where else are we going to find out the news about the paper we pay for. We pay expressway tolls, and we want to know what the behind-the-scenes actions are that cause us to pay more. Same with commuter rail, special-interest tax breaks and double-dipping public officials. The Sentinel tells us all about those things.
But, as was the case in the early and mid-'90 when downtown groundwater pollution was linked to the paper, we don't know much about what goes on inside 633 N. Orange unless someone from outside reports it.
Someone with a bunker mentality might call what is reported on this blog bitter. Those of us who appreciate good business reporting call it professionalism.

Anonymous said...

I too am a former colleague and don't see the reporting here as bitter at all. If anything, it's realistic.

No one in this business can afford to ignore the brutal truths about what's going on. It's a horrible, horrible time for newspapers, and accepting that fact without sugarcoating will help all of us get on with our lives.

Anonymous said...

please check that St. Pete Times number, I saw a much, much lower decline posted for them elsewhere. Also, please show both weekday and Sunday numbers.
Thank you.
Everyone should prepare a parachute now. Don't go down with the ship.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for what you are doing Maria. Count me among your fans. Only a fool would stick his/her head in the sand (or worse), and bear this atrocity in silence. Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable, and screw those naysayers who would even suggest this is sour grapes. You're the only one still telling it like it is. Don't stop. We need you!

Anonymous said...

I agree with E&P that falling circulation indicates that the redesign has not worked, but another thing that hasn't worked is this insistent Tribune focus on "local local local." What's on the front page is no longer the most important news, it's the most local news. I personally don't care if important national or international news has been on TV all day. Any literate reader needs and wants something more than 'local' news being stuffed down their throats in the most visible locations. That's what the "local" section used to be for! Most days we end up with two 'local' fronts. Dumb. It does not boost circulation, as far as I'm concerned.