Newspaper daily circulations appear to be in a death spiral, while weeklies are thriving

In 2007 newspaper still enjoyed a fairly healthy paid print circulation, though they have been in decline for years.

Compare those numbers to ones put together by a writer at this past January:

As your can see the Las Vegas newspaper paid circulation has been cut nearly in half since 2007, which is fairly typical across the industry.

The writer, Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica and a former newspaper executive, reports:

Nearly everyone in publishing with whom I shared the 2015 paid figures found them surprisingly low. There is no question that they are dramatically lower than the widely available 2013 numbers.

— If the 2013 numbers represent the “reality” that even industry professionals have in their heads, but the 2015 numbers represent the facts on the ground, how long can it be before print advertising prices (and thus newspaper revenues) come under further severe pressure?

— Finally, and to return to the McKinsey report (which speculated that circulation declines had bottomed out) with which we began, if print circulation is much lower than generally believed, what basis is there for confidence the declines are ending and a plateau lies ahead?

But it is not just the paid print circulation that is in decline it is also the revenue, which is not being saved by the digital side of the business:

Revenue growth in digital is not stanching the print hemorrhage.


Household penetration is in steady decline.

This statistic may be the most telling one of all:

People used to ask me what the newspaper’s biggest competitor was. They generally expected me to reply the Internet, I suspect, but I told them the biggest competitor was anything that took time away from the reading the paper, whether that is jogging, brushing their teeth longer, reading a book, etc. If the paper is not holding peoples’ attention, it is in trouble.

Meanwhile, there are a number of accounts reporting that weekly community newspaper are not just surviving, but many are thriving.

Judy Muller, a journalism professor at USC, reports:

In 2010, the National Newspaper Assn. provided some heartening survey statistics: More than three-quarters of respondents said they read most or all of a local newspaper every week. And a full 94% said they paid for their papers.

And what of the Internet threat? Many of these small-town editors have learned a lesson from watching their big-city counterparts: Don’t give it away. Many weeklies, from the Canadian Record in the Texas Panhandle to the Concrete Herald in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, are charging for their Web content, and, because readers can’t get that news anywhere else, they’re willing to pay.

About 67 percent of people who live in rural America prefer a printed newspaper over a digital format.

2 comments on “Newspaper daily circulations appear to be in a death spiral, while weeklies are thriving

  1. Bruce Feher says:

    I am the only one on my block that get’s the RJ delivered.

  2. Me, too, but I am a “retiree” from the paper.

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