Daily circulation at the nation’s newspapers dropped 10% for the six months ending September 30 according to industry measurement service Audit Bureau of Circulations.
It is not clear whether newspapers are helping themselves by shrinking both the size of the pages they are printed on and the number of daily subscribers that they have. The industry’s theory is that if it charges more for newsstand copies and home delivery that marginal readers will fall away and profit-per-reader will rise.
The only problem with a shrinking reader base is that advertising rates have to come down as well. Fewer readers, and advertisers want a better deal.
Of course, newspapers hope to bring in money from their online editions to make up for falling print circulation and advertising sales. That has not worked. Online revenue at most large dailies fell last year. Publicly held chains say that online revenue is now 6% to 12% of total sales, and that is not enough to offset a collapse in their traditional businesses.
Most large newspaper are taking the gamble that less is more and letting their paid circulations fall sharply. For the six-month period ending September 30, the average daily circulation of The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) fell 7.3% to 927,851. The Times Company also owns The Boston Globe where circulation fell 18.5% to 264,105. USA Today, flagship of Gannett (NYSE:GCI), watched 17.2% of its circulation go away dropping it to a daily average of 1,900,116. The circulation of The Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) dropped 6.4% to 582,844.
News Corp’s (NYSE:NWS) two large US newspapers posted very different results. The average daily paid circulation of The Wall Street Journal fell only .6% to 2,024,269. The New York Post dropped 18.8% to 508,042.
Douglas A. McIntyre