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Newspaper Circulation Falling Off a Cliff

    The new circulation numbers, long-awaited, long-dreaded, are out this morning. From Editor & Publisher:

    "The San Francisco Chronicle's daily circ is down 16.5% to 400,906 copies, a huge drop. The Los Angeles Times is down about 6.5% to 843,432 daily copies. On Sunday the paper reported a decrease of roughly 3.4% to 1,247,588 copies.

    "The Orlando Sentinel took a huge hit, with daily circulation down around 11% to 219,838. The Chicago Tribune's daily circ fell around 2.7% to 586,122 daily copies. Circulation at The Sun in Baltimore also decreased. Daily circ is down 8.5% to 247,193.

   "The Tribune Co. expects an overall decline of 4% for daily and Sunday copies -- excluding Newsday.

   "At the San Jose Mercury News, daily circ is down 3.9% to 249,090. Sunday circ fell 5.2% to 278,420. The Miami Herald is down 4.3% daily, and 3.6% Sundays. The Philadelphia Inquirer is down about 3% with daily circ at 357,679. Sunday circ is down roughly 4.5% to 714,609.

   "Knight Ridder said overall circulation for the company decreased about 2% for daily copies and about 3.5% for Sunday copies.

   "The Washington Post reported a drop in daily circulation, down 4% to 678,779. Sunday decreased roughly 4% to 965,919."

    It'll be interesting to see reaction to all this today on sites such as Romenesko. Here's one take, from Jay Smith, chairman of the Newspaper Association of American: "The scorekeepers in our business have failed to count readers, preferring to track the easier-to-measure metric of paid circulation."

     Howie writes this morning: "Except for an uptick during Hurricane Katrina, the media's stock seems to be in a gradual decline -- journalistically, financially and psychologically. That is unlikely to change as long as journalists keep behaving in ways that alienate their audiences."

    LindaLoo of San Antonio comes strong with a Boodle comment this morning:

   "...much of the news on our hometown front-page pages has, for the most part, already been thoroughly covered by the East Coast electronic media by the time I head out my front door to retrieve the paper from my lawn. We are a "fly-over city" in terms of news immediacy.

    "But what really gets my news goat is to realize that our news is just wrap-around for the major ads, primarily those of big-box retailers. The most goat-irritating is to see a wire story that ends oddly. It's just too easy for me to go online and to find the story either through a keyword search or via the reporter's byline. I've done this often enough in the past to see just how much of the story I've truly missed because of the limitation of column inches in the San Antonio Express-News."

    As long as I'm in the recycling spirit, here's an exchange from the Boodle this morning, regarding my previous post about the mainstream media:

   stacy b: Sorry, but the MSM is too busy defending itself these days and your article just does more of that. Corporate ownership and consolidation, in addition to the fact that the heavies of mainstream journalism are often rubbing elbows at Salon parties, with the very people whom they are supposed to be covering objectively, should give us all pause. The slavish reporting of the MSM in the run up to the Iraq war cannot be so easily brushed aside, as you attempt to do- its a big deal and the MSM still hasn't come clean and admitted not only their complacency, but their complicity. The media violated the public trust by allowing themselves to become part of the government's propaganda after 9/11 for fear of being labeled "unamerican" or worse, "liberal."...

   Achenbach: I wasn't trying to brush aside any mistakes pre-war or post-war by the mainstream media. It's a very serious issue. And The Post has acknowledged right on the front page that it underplayed stories questioning the premise of the war. But just to take three big steps backward: My item [see previous Kit] isn't about whether the mainstream news media is the best source of information about the war in Iraq, or about politics in general. It's about the future of Old Media. That is not going to depend upon our political coverage. In the blowhardsphere, politics dominates, but it's a small part of what a newspaper (to take one form of Old Media) delivers to the public. (Not everyone is politics obsessed -- I know, it's shocking!) ... I for one would like to see mainstream newspapers healthy, financially, because it will allow them to do the kind of costly, tough, long-term reporting that benefits everyone. 

By Joel Achenbach  |  November 7, 2005; 10:22 AM ET
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