KCSA PUBLIC RELATIONS, INVESTOR RELATIONS BLOG
Posted by Jeff Corbin on November 20th, 2009
While the entire business community has been hit hard over the past year, the media industry keeps pumping out more bad news. This week the Audit Bureau of Circulations released a report stating that the average weekday newspaper circulation dropped nearly 11 percent (for the six month period ending Sept. 30). The report also indicated that the Wall Street Journal is now the largest newspaper by weekday circulation. Historically USA Today held this spot.
While publishers claim that their audiences are becoming more targeted, data like this reinforces the fact that the communications industry has changed. Traditional print and broadcast media, while still important, is not the be all/end all. Rather, online media, such as Minyanville.com and Seeking Alpha, can be as important and impactful in helping organizations accomplish their communications objectives (as compared to the front page of the New York Times or CNBC).
It is therefore essential that communications professionals educate their clients on how to adapt to this new media environment and integrate traditional media relations, with social media and other online communications tools.
U.S. Newspaper Circulation Falls
By SHIRA OVIDE
Average weekday newspaper circulation for the six months ended Sept. 30 dropped nearly 11%, the starkest decline in years and a sign of both the industry’s deepening troubles and its efforts to purposely pare unprofitable copies.
Average Daily Circulation at U.S. Newspapers*
Wall Street Journa l2,024,2690.61%
New York Times927,851-7.28%
Los Angeles Times657,467-11.05%
N.Y. Daily News544,167-13.98%
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations
Nearly two-thirds of the 25 largest papers in the U.S. posted circulation declines of 10% or more. Hearst Corp.’s San Francisco Chronicle, which posted a 26% drop in circulation, and Advance Publications Inc.’s Star-Ledger in New Jersey, with a decline of more than 22% from a year earlier. The sharpest falloffs for the group were at The results, released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an industry group, reflect the figures reported every six months by hundreds of U.S. dailies. Average weekday circulation declined 7.1% in the period ended in March from a year earlier. The decline was 4.6% in September 2008.
The report also confirmed a preliminary count that The Wall Street Journal overtook Gannett Co.’s USA Today as the country’s largest paper by weekday circulation.
Even as circulation slips, some companies are reporting higher revenue from circulation, thanks to price increases for subscriptions and for single copies. At McClatchy Co., revenue from circulation rose 4.2% in the first nine months of the year from a year earlier, even though many of the its biggest newspapers posted sharp circulation declines. Average weekday circulation at McClatchy’s Miami Herald fell 23%, and the decline was 14% at its Sacramento Bee.
Gannett Co.’s USA Today had been the biggest paper in the U.S. for a decade but the slump in business travel meant fewer copies of USA Today were sold to hotels, one of the paper’s historic strengths. USA Today has said it expects the paper’s circulation to rebound with the economy.
The Journal also was helped by sales of paid online subscriptions, which few newspapers offer. The Journal’s print circulation was 1.6 million, a 2% decline from a year earlier, as the News Corp. publication cut out low-price copies distributed to schools and other places. That figure comes in behind USA Today’s, though not on the basis of individually paid copies.
Newspaper circulation has largely been shrinking for decades, but the pace of the decline has picked up. More readers are turning to the Web, and many papers are raising prices and cutting back on copies sold at a steep discount or delivered to people who live in remote areas.
Publishers say they are concerned less about the total number of copies they distribute than with reaching a smaller but more select audience for the printed newspaper. They say this strategy makes the newspaper more attractive to advertisers and helps publishers generate more revenue for each copy sold.
“The audience remaining tends to be more loyal, more engaged and more responsive” to advertising, said Vince Casanova, the senior vice president of publishing operations for Tribune Co., which publishes eight major dailies, including the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun. He said nearly three-quarters of the subscribers across the newspaper chain have been on the rolls for three years or longer.
Click for interactive map of pressures facing the newspaper industry.
Newspapers make the vast majority of their advertising money from print ads, so lower circulation can crimp advertising sales. Newspaper circulation is an important measure for setting advertising rates, though it is becoming less important for many marketers. Newspapers have been recasting themselves as marketing-services firms of sorts, with multiple Web and print publications to target younger people, affluent households and other demographic groups marketers seek to reach.
“I’m glad they’re doing the right thing, but fundamentally we still look at the circulation figure, and the lower it gets, the more we have to depend on other media” to reach consumers, said Steve Farella, chief executive of TargetCast TCM, which helps companies including Expedia Inc. and New York Life Insurance Co. select media in which to advertise their products.
At New York Times Co. circulation revenue rose 3.1% for the first nine months of the year from a year earlier, even as actual circulation fell 7.3% at its flagship paper and 19% at the Boston Globe, which it also owns.
—Russell Adams contributed to this article
Write to Shira Ovide at email@example.com