Newspaper Circulation Numbers Drop Again

Discussion
Nov 08, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Only two of the top 20 newspapers in the country saw their weekday circulation numbers increase during the first six months of 2005, according to the Newspaper Association of
America.

The New York Times and the Star-Ledger of Newark, NJ were the only papers to post gains during the weekday period with the average experiencing a decline of 2.6
percent.

The numbers were even worse for Sunday as the average circulation figures fell 3.1 percent.

According to an Associated Press report, the circulation declines are the continuation of “a years-long trend of falling circulation at daily newspapers as more people,
especially young adults, turn to the Internet for news.”

Moderator’s Comment: What does the continuing decline in circulation numbers at newspapers mean for retailer advertisers? Are circulation declines enough
to justify shifting dollars elsewhere? Have retailers shifted budgets to other media to accommodate and keep pace with the way people receive information and get entertainment?


George Anderson – Moderator

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16 Comments on "Newspaper Circulation Numbers Drop Again"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 3 months ago
What matters most to any advertiser? Getting a purchase. Before the internet, most retailers liked newspapers because they’d show the item at a price, and sales results were easily measured. Newspapers typically give local retailers great price breaks, compared to national nonretailer advertisers. So it pays for the consumer product manufacturers to assist the retailers with co-op ad funds, since the space is being purchased at the lowest cost. Even though physical newspaper circulation is down, most newspapers have profitable web sites with lots of advertising. The newspapers don’t need to charge their web site readers, since the ad profits are lush. The cost of printing and physical delivery is often greater than the price paid by the subscriber anyway, so eliminating the physical paper can be profitable. Furthermore, smart advertisers love internet ads because effectiveness can be more easily measured. This doesn’t mean the end of printed newspapers. Simply put, it’s an appropriate decline. BTW, I doubt that the growth of the NY Times circulation is meaningful to NY-area advertisers. My impression is that… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

The quick answer is it means advertisers are getting less bang for their buck. The real issue though is why readership is declining. The easy answer is that more and more people are turning to alternative news sources such as CNN — but that doesn’t help most supermarket advertisers much. What we really need is an OBJECTIVE analysis of the effectiveness of community newspapers and other alternative print resources.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

I think there is another angle to George’s question “what does this mean for retailer advertisers?”

The answer is “not much” and the reason is that promoting the chain and the weekly specials is only one purpose for the ad. The other is to drive vendor revenue, and that won’t change unless manufacturers stop buying ads. And that won’t change.

Bob Houk
Guest
Bob Houk
15 years 3 months ago

Since 1990, circulation is down about 8% (and appears to be accelerating downward), while retail ad spending is up 32% (not adjusted for inflation).

Clearly, advertisers (and most of this is paid for by manufacturers, not retailers) are getting less and paying more.

What I think is of interest is that newspapers, like TV, are becoming a targeted rather than mass medium. Editor & Publisher quoted a Miami Herald editor: “Newspapers will become supplemental reading for a very elite audience,” he added, and the online edition “will be where the popular press lives.”

I don’t believe him, because I don’t see any reason why the “very elite” are going to read print any more than everybody else. When I cancelled my newspaper subscription, a female friend pointed out that women will keep taking the paper because they use it to shop. Since young people don’t read papers, I see the newspaper becoming a vehicle for reaching middle-aged and older females.

Kirk Whisler
Guest
Kirk Whisler
15 years 3 months ago

The headlines are missing the real story. For too long, Daily Newspapers have acted like they are the whole newspaper industry, when they are not. While circulation is down with mainstream daily newspapers, many categories of newspapers are prospering.

I’ve worked most of my life in Hispanic Print and Hispanic newspapers are prospering. Employment in Hispanic newspapers increased 10.6% last year to 10,120. Hispanic newspaper ad sales increased to $923 million – a 55% increase since 2000. Other ethnic papers are also growing, as are business weeklies and most types of alternatives newspapers.

Every time ABC releases a report showing downturns in daily circulation, the way the information is presented hurts ALL NEWSPAPERS. This is both inaccurate and unfair. Advertisers have other VERY EFFECTIVE alternatives to daily newspapers.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 3 months ago

Take a look at http://www.naa.org, the Newspaper Association of America web site. The buzz is about online. These declines in paper circulation are being offset to some degree at least by increased traffic at those same newspaper’s web sites. Advertisers are following: the NAA estimates $1 billion in advertising on newspaper web sites in the first half of the year.

The landscape looks increasingly difficult for the traditional newspaper: new distribution channels, particularly mobile ones, will further erode their role as local news provider. TV couldn’t capture the read-the-paper-on-the-morning-train crowd, but with Podcasts and cell-phone TV broadcasts, even that sanctuary is under assault.

The bottom line is that retailers and other advertisers will need to look to a richer media mix if they want to reach their entire market–newspapers alone will not do that any more.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

In a way, generalist newspapers have become the all-things-to-all-people department stores. Where possible, it’s wise to find enthusiast, niche publications or media where people are truly involved. I’d be looking to the meaningful harvest and use of loyalty card data, lists (of e-mails, snail mail addresses) of shoppers who fit my target. I’d negotiate shamelessly with local newspapers. I’ve heard of several instances where in-store announcements really moved the needle. Done right, event tie-ins can help achieve the objective. The job of ad director is a lot harder today but, quite frankly, it could be a lot of fun if people got really creative. Yet I routinely see lots of ads in the local shopper papers that are tossed as soon as they arrive. I know this because I stand in my post office and watch people open their boxes, and toss out these papers in big trash bins provided for the purpose, without even looking at them. It’s testimony to lazy, uncreative ad directors!

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 3 months ago
Newspapers are in a small decline, but not dead yet. In fact, many like us have simply shifted their reading patterns but use the same vehicle. What’s that mean? In our house, we actually read more papers, but we’re reading them online. In many cases, I would speculate that the number of people being reached by newspapers is actually a huge increase. It’s just that they aren’t reading the ‘paper’ paper. Newspapers, like retailers, haven’t quite figured out the net. Since they are old media, they think in older more conventional ways. That’s much the same for retailers. Imagine this: during the week, we no longer get delivery of the paper, but read more papers on-line. However, on the weekend, we make the ever so important special trip out for the Sunday paper and coffee. Why? The ads! It’s not the paper itself, but it’s still the most effective way of consolidation and mass distribution of the weekly ads from all types of merchants. Imagine if there were a more effective way to accomplish that… Read more »
Randall White
Guest
Randall White
15 years 3 months ago

It’s frightening… but the American public no longer wants to hear what we don’t want to hear.

We select the music we want and download it into an iPod that only we can enjoy. We select our favorites sites and blogs on the Web and only read the perspectives we want to read. No longer want to receive e-mail from that long-time acquaintance? “Blacklist” them. Why subscribe to theater or concert seasons when you can pay a little more for tickets to the performance we like? Don’t like the “liberal” CNN? Flip to Fox. Or BBC. Or screw the news all together, let’s watch Jon Stewart.

Technology changes everything and narrowcasting feeds our ideological isolationism.

That spells The Big “Uh, Oh…” for print advertisers.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

From the retailers’ perspective, each store needs to determine the effect of their newspaper promotions. If the retailer doesn’t know what they used to be, how can the retailer know whether or not that store is experiencing a decrease in impact? Who reads the paper? Who comes to your store? How do sales change after the promotion? If the people still reading the newspaper frequent your store and respond to promotions, there is no problem. If the people reading the newspaper don’t frequent your store, why continue spending? If the people reading the newspaper frequent your store but you can’t identify a response to your promotion, then rethink your promotion.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
15 years 3 months ago

Newspapers are not important nor should they be to most retailers. The most successful small stores market thru their web sites, their database, their location, thru events and activities, exciting promotions, PR, Community Service, Word Of Mouth and thru creative presentation of fresh and unique products. Larger stores that work from Starbucks to IKEA and Costco built their businesses on the same formula that works for small stores. Is it any surprise that the category that is struggling the most and that has the most questionable future (department stores) is the one that devotes the largest percentage of its marketing budget to newspaper advertising….maybe this is why department stores are yesterday’s news!!!

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

The change in newspaper circulation reflects the growth in other electronic media, including online, TV and radio. This shift is apparent from Google’s incredible profits, which solely resulted from the growth of their online advertising. Print media, although it is more durable and allows a “pass around rate” which electronic media doesn’t offer, still can’t provide the full motion video and audio of electronic media. Now, even cell phones and iPods can display this information, as well as online and wireless access to carry the electronic message. As we look to the future, we will continue to see the decay of print media and the growth of electronic media. This will be accelerated as more print media corporations drive their business into an online environment to metamorphisize into a clicks and mortar organization. They recognize that they must present electronic access for their circulation to survive.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

I’m only guessing here, or, rather, making an educated guess based on personal observation and experience extrapolated into broad-based customer behaviour, but it seems to me that losing newspaper readers will reduce the number of people who walk through the door because of the coupons they’ve clipped. Now mebbe that’s a good thing because those are the very cherry pickers that retailers want to dump. And mebbe the cyber-coupon-clippers are a better class of customer, spending more because they are less demographically challenged i.e. better educated and with more disposable income. But then again, I wonder what other RW contributors know about take-up of online coupons. Are fewer coupon clippers better in the long run? Or are there just as many online bargain hunters as the old-fashioned newspaper reading kind?

Bill Dillon
Guest
Bill Dillon
15 years 3 months ago

What the newspapers have going for them is an efficient system for delivering printed advertising messages into people’s homes in a quality environment. The mass aspect of that is slipping away, especially with younger audiences. Community newspapers do not work nearly as well for most retail advertisers simply because they are not the source most people go to for sales or bargains. The mass mailers brag about their ability to get into every home, but they attract mostly low end advertisers. High end advertisers do not want their ads next to the dollar store or the closeout store insert. McLuhan was right, “The medium is the message.” What is needed is a targeted mass medium that can deliver targeted print advertising to a mass audience efficiently and in a timely manner. Department stores would love to have a quality vehicle to use for their weekly circulars that would deliver large numbers of say women 25-49 with $75K+ HHI. Whoever invents that conduit will make a fortune.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 3 months ago

Well Bernice, you’ve come to the right place, since that’s what I do for a living. We are seeing rapid adoption of printable coupons, and not coincidentally, the newspaper websites are a major component of our Digital FSI network. The major newspaper groups are working through a company called Consumer Networks, which runs a service called Boodle. You can find it on hundreds of Gannett, Knight-Ridder, Tribune and other newspaper sites. So I believe newspapers will continue to be an important part of ad distribution, they’re just going to be doing it online more and more.

David Etenburn
Guest
David Etenburn
13 years 9 months ago
Anyone surprised? I’m not. Newspapers are obsolete, their reports are vanilla. Boring. No wonder a potential half of their audience have abandoned or at least have ignored them. The National Association of Realtors is now reporting in some markets, 84% of home buyers go to the internet. Less than 25% go to the newspaper. Does that tell you something? What newspapers need to do is take a good look at themselves. They don’t give the public what they want anymore. Meanwhile, the overpaid publishers in their ivory towers continue to churn out garbage and blame their advertising and circulation departments for their demise. They don’t realize these very departments are keeping their sorry organizations afloat! It amazes me in a country where the population grows at about 2% a year, that an industry who considers itself to be a national staple continues to show losses in market share, more and more of their brethren go out of business, and the leaders of the industry seem to be at a loss at solving the problem. I… Read more »
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