Newspaper circulation dips further

April 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Print

Print circulation showed another dramatic decline in the US in figures released on Monday.

As Louis Hau from Forbes says in the article linked from Romenesko, circulation decline isn’t the biggest problem, it’s monetising an increasingly online readership.

The industry’s most pressing problem isn’t the state of print circulation, which has been in decline since the mid-1980s. Instead, it is figuring out how to generate more advertising revenue from both its shrinking but still lucrative print product and its growing online properties.

Is it the beginning of the end for newspapers? Not likely, since dropping circulation has been ‘the beginning of the end’ for the last 20 years according to Hau’s quote above.

It’s just the beginning. Smaller community newspapers will continue to provide local news, including in a web presence. Larger metropolitan dailies may become media outlets, of which their newspaper is a component of the news distribution methods they offer, rather than their defining characteristic.

Until someone comes up with an effective monetisation strategy for web and mobile content that can either match current print advertising revenue, or at the very least break even, the doom and gloom outlook for newspapers will continue.

Sourced from Romenesko:

Print newspaper circulation continues on its steep downward slide
Editor & Publisher
Some ABC FAS-FAX numbers for the six-month period ending March 31, 2008:
* New York Times down 9.2% on Sunday, 3.8% daily
* Washington Post down 4.3% on Sunday, 3.5% daily
* Wall Street Journal up 0.3
* Los Angeles down 6% on Sunday, 5.1% daily
* USA Today up .27% to 2,284,219
* Boston Globe down 6.4% on Sunday, 8.3% daily

> How the top 25 daily newspapers performed in the FAS-FAX report (E&P)
> Louis Hau: Why circulation declines aren’t a wholly reliable barometer of overall performance. (Forbes)


6 Responses to “Newspaper circulation dips further”
  1. Dave says:

    Here’s that link. It’s from the Media Shift Ideas Lab
    Newspapers Struggling Online, Not Just in Print

    As disturbing as the recent numbers on declining print circulation and plunging advertising revenue at newspapers have been, less attention has been paid to ominous signs of a slow-down on the online side as well:

    Followed by figures showing there is still growth, just not that seen in previous years.

  2. Dave says:

    Is voluntary circulation cutting really just about rising fuel prices? If it is, doesn’t it still come from a place of, “Those people aren’t worth enough to our advertisers to cover the fuel cost to deliver papers out there”?

    I would argue that’s a result of the decline of the industry as a whole, and that they now just have less money to cover those fuel costs, not specifically that the fuel costs have become too prohibitive.

    We all know online advertising isn’t currently high enough to support main stream media business models, but will it ever be? A little reported fact in all the doom and gloom raining down on the newspaper industry is that the online advertising outlook isn’t so rosy either.

    I think I read that somewhere in my reading list (right column), so I’ll try and find it again and post the link.

    Thanks for your comment Amanda, and thanks for the links!

  3. Amanda says:

    While there have been some decreases in newspaper circulation not all of it can be called failure or a complete shift away from this traditional medium. In many cases the decreases are genuinely business oriented—things like voluntary circulation cutting to outlying areas because of escalating fuel costs. Diego Vasquez wrote an article ( about this based on a Q&A with Rick Edmonds, media business analyst for the Poynter Institute.

    There seems to be a lot more to the picture than it seems. The one thing that’s certain is that the only real way to tell what’s going on is through the use of audited circulation statements. Furthermore, though there may be a shift to online media that only reinforces the need for the development of realistic audit processes for that medium. We’ve been working with a group called Buy Safe Media ( and they’ve got some good info on the value of audited media.

  4. Dave says:

    Thanks for your response John!
    I think you’ve made a good point, in that online circ WILL save the industry.
    I don’t know that it will necessarily save the paper/print/radio ‘business models’ per se, but we can certainly rest assured that the news industry as a whole will continue to thrive.
    People still want the news, they just want it delivered in the most convenient format – the format they choose.
    Deliver or become irrelevant.
    I’m also fairly confident that ‘journalists’ will also continue to thrive, whatever that term comes to mean.
    Just as some print/radio journalists successfully made the transition to TV, so some print/radio/TV journalists will successfully make the transition to online.
    In both cases though, the emergence of the new technology also sees the emergence of a new journalist for whom the process is not about learning to adapt to something foreign, but simply refining what is natural.
    After that rant, online editions, including online content via mobile will be incredibly important. See upcoming post on mobile content in Africa and Vietnam.

  5. John says:

    I think online circulations of news papers will save the industry from shrinking and it’s the best tool to get the revenues as the most of the people looking for online editions. There are some companies like which is helping the print publisher to circulate the editions through new technology mediums. I think these kinds of strategies will work well to increase the circulations.


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