Sagging Sundays Lead Dailies’ Drop

Editor and Publisher has the latest six-month circulation figures for newspapers, and the news isn’t good.

The Los Angeles Times reported that daily circulation fell 8% to 775,766. Sunday dropped 6% to 1,172,005.

The San Francisco Chronicle was down. Daily dropped 5.3% to 373,805 and Sunday fell 7.3% to 432,957.

The New York Times lost 3.5% daily to 1,086,798 and 3.5% on Sunday to 1,623,697. Its sister publication, The Boston Globe, reported decreases in daily circulation, down 6.7% to 386,415 and Sunday, down 9.9% to 587,292.

The Washington Post lost daily circulation, which was down 3.3% to 656,297 while Sunday declined 3.6% to 930,619.

Circulation losses at The Wall Street Journal were average, with daily down 1.9% to 2,043,235. The paper’s Weekend Edition, however, saw its circulation fall 6.7% to 1,945,830.

Daily circulation at USA Today slipped 1.3% to 2,269,509.

As the article points out, the latest report seems to indicate that the circulation decline is accelerating:

This is the fourth consecutive semi-annual report to register a severe drop in daily circulation and — perhaps more troubling to the industry — Sunday copies. While the estimated decline 2.8% for daily circulation for all reporting papers may seem negligible, consider that in years past that decrease averaged around 1%. Sunday, considered the industry’s bread-and-butter, showed even steeper losses, with a decline of about 3.4%.

In fact, of the top 25 U.S. dailies, only the New York Post, New York Daily News and St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed any gain. The table is here.

Some Perspective: Newspapers are clearly facing a tough climate, as the recent budget problems and staff cuts at the Los Angeles Times testify. Obviously these circulation declines can’t continue forever if these papers are to remain economically viable; and maybe the “paper” part of daily newspaper will need to become less important.

But newspapers are still among the places where it is possible to make the biggest splash about an issue and reach a broad audience. When a web-based story or viral video reaches a million people, that’s a huge and extraordinary hit. The LA Times reaches (with pass-alongs) that many people with its top stories every day.

That’s why getting a story about the DM&E in the Times this week was a huge lift in drawing attention to this record $2.3 billion federal bailout (bigger than Chrysler), to help turn up the heat on the issue.

(Disclosure: I work for Mayo Clinic, one of the members of the coalition attempting to kill this $2.3 billion federal loan to DM&E. For more information about this issue, click here.)

New media, like the web site maintained by the “Track the Truth” campaign, make it possible for people and organizations other than the traditional news media to reach a broad audience directly. But even though the audiences for traditional media are declining, big dailies, local metro TV news and national broadcast and cable networks are still the best ways to reach a big audience.

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Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 14. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

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