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Readers to Papers: Drop Dead

Frank Ahrens

As it has done since 1987, newspaper circulation continued to slide, according to fresh data out today.

The most recent numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations--the Nielsens of newspapering -- paint a grim picture at most of the nation's largest newspapers.

Overall, average national newspaper daily circulation was down 2.5 percent for the past six months compared to the same period last year.

It was actually up at the New York Post (5 percent) and the New York Daily News (1 percent) thanks to their ongoing tabloid war.

(It has been an ambition of mine to write the A1 headline of a New York tab at some point in my career.)

New York tabs aside, here's the circulation dropoff at some of the nation's dailies:

Miami Herald: - 8.8 percent
Los Angeles Times: - 8 percent
Philadelphia Inquirer: - 7.5 percent
Boston Globe: - 6.7 percent
Baltimore Sun: - 4.4 percent
New York Times: - 3.5 percent
The Washington Post: - 3.3 percent
Wall Street Journal: - 1.9 percent
USA Today: - 1.3 percent
Cleveland Plain Dealer: - .6 percent (Woo-hoo! Go, Cleveland!)

At the same time, more people than ever are reading the news and information created by some of these papers, thanks to their Web sites. But so far, Web advertising revenue has not caught up with newspaper ad revenue.

Note that the No. 2 loser on the list -- the LA. Times -- is owned by the Tribune Co., which has just hung out the "for sale" sign.

What do the numbers mean for Tribune's effort to sell itself? Read my story in tomorrow's Post.

Meantime: You are obviously reading a newspaper Web site. Do you still read the actual newspaper? Why or why not?

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2006; 6:54 PM ET  | Category:  Frank Ahrens
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"Do you still read the actual newspaper? Why or why not?"

I used to get the WaPo, but now that I've moved out of state, I can't.
I don't get my local paper either, though. Why not? There's too much stuff I don't bother reading in it. I can read what I want on the internet, and not have papers piled up in the recycle bin.

Most of all, I can't stand actual newsPAPER because the ink is crap. In this day and age, you'd think you could read a paper without having to wash your hands afterwards! (I'm mildly allergic to it, but even if I weren't, it's still annoying.)

Posted by: NoName | October 30, 2006 8:06 PM

Stories that people are reading news online and less at newspapers always makes me wonder, isn't the online news largely generated by print reporters? And if so, were if future online news going to come from if print reporters are few and far between?

Posted by: Wildebeest | October 30, 2006 8:23 PM

"Drop Dead". I couldn't have said it any better myself.

After subscribing to the LA Times for almost 20 years, and debating whether or not to cancel for 1-2 years, I finally did. Oh, what a relief it was.

My reasons were entirely due to their insistence on forcing their utterly arrogant agenda into my house every day and expecting me to pay for the privilege.

They prefer to blame it on the internet.

I still subscribe to a local paper and read some of it everyday, but no politics and nothing that involves any chance of their inserting an opinion.

Posted by: Jim Toler | October 30, 2006 8:39 PM

We subscribed to the L.A. Times for over 35 years. I think it contains very little in-depth news these days. It does have many department store ads. About two-thirds of the Sunday edition can be trashed immediately without bothering to bring it to the den with your coffee. When I called to discontinue the paper, the rep offered me The L.A. Times for half-price. I could not accept, as we were moving, but it did give me pause; had we been overcharged for 35 years? What is going on? I arrived in the lovely Northwest and began to read the WSJ and NYTimes--and I soon realized that there are excellent in-depth articles available in these newspapers. The NYTimes sends emails with movie and book reviews, and the WSJ is our new morning reading. The internet will not totally replace a paper edition anytime soon, but to survive, I think that the best ones will have to find a way to couple paper subscriptions with online subscriptions--because most of us do not want to pay for both.

Posted by: J. Glass | October 30, 2006 9:33 PM

I have subscribed to the local daily paper since moving out of my parents' house 18 years ago. It's simply something you do...nothing can replace holding a newspaper in my hands, reading the comic, skimming over the ads, etc.

I can't get the Post delivered where I live now (well, not for a reasonable cost, anyway) and I haven't lived in the WaPo delivery area since 1996, but I read it online daily, and I still read my local paper as well. But I read the Post for free; if that were to change to a subscription model I can't say I'd continue it. For money, I really want something I can hold in my hands.

Posted by: PJ Geraghty | October 30, 2006 10:36 PM

I would certainly have to say that the comment regarding the crappagio of the ink and paper quality is spot on. Just one of a few reasons.

The internet is faster and often more convenient. I don't 'have' to kill a tree every month.

The newspaper is a relic of an age long ago.... let go. If this were not true, the ink and the paper would have been upgraded long ago; and these same companies that are feeling the pinch would not ALSO provide and electronic version.

I have no draw to newspapers... local... national... nor free. I'm busy and the internet is quicker!

Posted by: james | October 30, 2006 10:57 PM

I buy a local paper or two in Mexico where I live, but when it comes to reading news from the US, I go to the Web. And since there is so many options, I read what is freely available. If a paper requires a login, I sometimes remember, but most often not. Bad news for Austin American Statesman and New York Times, but I am becoming a fan of certain blogs, independent websites and of course Flickr.

The Washington Post offered the best analysis in its summertime blog on the Mexican elections. That said, if I had the chance to buy the paper would I? Probably not.

Posted by: Ron Mader | October 30, 2006 11:10 PM

Since I am a computer junky in general and an internet news addict in particular I know exactly where the readership is going. That said, there is a pleasure in leisurely reading the paper out on the porch on a crisp sunny morning, which so far cannot be digitally duplicated. I like to hold it in my hands, turn the pages, smell the ink. Even the sound as I see what the next page brings. Sometimes I miss that.

So count me as one who will always want a paper, though I don't subscribe. Circulation is going to change this way - to the occasional purchase, impulse or breakfast habit - and the papers will be well advised to adjust their marketing and distribution to accommodate this evolving reality.

Posted by: WP Hamilton | October 30, 2006 11:25 PM

As a 1990 graduate of a J-School (USC) who aspired to working in print, I can't say that the death of newspapers or nightly news would sadden me. The reporting is thin, the analysis often proved wrong weeks later, and I can get the weather or sports online instantly.

I care about local issues, but the two local papers here in the Twin Cities are largely montages of news I read on the NYT and WP sites days earlier. Even the columns are old, which is really funny when news events pass them.

I've turned to local talk radio and the Internet to learn about local issues, since I'm new in the area -- a Calif. transplant. The papers just didn't tell me anything about the candidates, local ballot issues, or even local sports that I couldn't find online.

Until online editions learn to charge enough for ads or find other support, print will support the better medium. Personally, I don't plan on paying for a newspaper ever again. But I would pay for some online news. The WSJ, is an example, with stories I find "new" instead of reworked day-old information.

Posted by: C. S. Wyatt | October 30, 2006 11:27 PM

MOST LEAN TOO FAR LEFT - NOT BALANCED IN REPORTING TOO MANY JOURNLIST, NOT ENOUGH REPORTERS

Posted by: J HAHN | October 31, 2006 12:33 AM

Newspapers are usually 24 hours to weeks to months (and in one case two years) behind in the news compared to something like NPR or news.google

They are also lazy on the 'original' reporting (unlike 60 minutes and local news). They just rehash AP news the majority of the time. Anybody can do that, and everybody IS doing that and taking their market share.

Posted by: spayced | October 31, 2006 12:44 AM

Are you shocked that we no longer want to read your paper? Why? Years ago you used to be a "NEWS-PAPER" but now you are a left-wing political action committe. We vote with our feet stupid. However, if we ever want to read some left wing lunatic whine all day long using secular progressive propaganda, we will surly come to the Post to get a heaping nauseating helping.

Posted by: John | October 31, 2006 12:55 AM

Ding dong the wicked witch is dead... If you get off on bashing the political right constantly read the left leaning times theirs plenty of them... if not well don't read it. Duh, it's just capitalism dummies.

Posted by: Robert Bankim | October 31, 2006 1:24 AM

I subscribe to two somewhat local newspapers now but pick up the latest from the web. It's possible that I would drop a subscription in response to inflationary forces. But if the web has the really local stuff, I haven't found it.

Posted by: Robert | October 31, 2006 1:25 AM

Almost perfectly said by J.Hahn (above): "NOT BALANCED IN REPORTING TOO MANY JOURNLIST, NOT ENOUGH REPORTERS". I would much rather read an actual newspaper than read on-line, but there are no longer many 'news' papers available, there are mostly editorials being 'sold' as news. It's easier, and more logical, to just read actual opinion pieces on the internet, as they are what they say they are -- opinion pieces. The WPost is a far better news source than the NYTimes -- and the WSJ is better than both -- and the NYTimes will continue to lose circulation: neither a surprise nor a misfortune. The country is not as liberal as either our academic elites or our 'mainstream media'. As always, the market will dictate the who survives ... adapt or fail; it's very simple.

Posted by: SC-London | October 31, 2006 2:35 AM

I'll be honest with you guys aobut the liberal reporting thing.

I think you're wrong.

The post and many other newspapers bend over backwards to bring in a balanced view, but it just doesn't dominate because everyone has heard the conservative take before. It isn't "news"!

If you want to read commentary that agrees with you in lockstep instead of a newer take on things, you've come to the wrong place.

Posted by: Deanna | October 31, 2006 3:15 AM

Here, I can read the same story from 6 angles in one session, while the coffee is brewing.
with paper, i would have to pay _a_lot_, and have 6 papers!?!? silly.
As stated above, AP rehashes aren't worth a lot, but a meta-analysis of what all are saying might be worth something.
NYT and WaPo, despite the mixed signals they send about politics, still have more content than most.

Posted by: dh delaware | October 31, 2006 7:30 AM

Read a paper? Of course! It exposes one to many different subjects. I've noticed that people getting news online pick and choose only what interests them. And when you're online you're in a "fast" mode where you're almost overwhelmed with choices, jumping around from site to site, from story to story. But in the paper, there have been times when I've read an interesting article that I never would have clicked on if it was online. A newspaper is something to read and savor, to peruse.

Posted by: Mike | October 31, 2006 8:29 AM

I have subscribed to our local Winston-Salem Journal since moving here three years ago. Three reasons: excellent local coverage; inherently funny letters to the editor from the religious right; two pages of comics...at age 66, I need some humor to offset the idiocy of the politicians.

Posted by: Bob | October 31, 2006 8:47 AM

I don't get it. Readers are going from print versions to online, like that's the end of the world. It's just a different delivery system.

Posted by: Richmond Ed | October 31, 2006 9:00 AM

Advertising takes up 3/4 of the papers bulk it provides little if no real news. News is what just happened not what happened a few days ago. A compilation of all sides and facts of each story may be the best use for a news paper today. No one really takes the time to put the stories back together for a complete picture. This would be a journalist's job but they are to opinionated to stop shoving theirs in our face every morning and just give us the indepth facts and analysis from experts not journalists.

Posted by: I H8T ADVRTS | October 31, 2006 9:01 AM

I still read the newspapers. They are more portable than my computer, and the "news" is essentially the same as it has been since I began steadily reading the paper in the early 60s. The web may be more immediate, but if I am working, I don't have time for that immediacy anyway.

My son began delivering our local paper about two years ago. His route is the same but his deliveries are down about 10%. Notes he gets on the cancellations mostly cite the paper subscription as too expensive. When making choices between high gas prices, high heating bills, higher food bills and other expenses, the newspaper seems to be the expendable one.

Posted by: Steve | October 31, 2006 9:51 AM

I subscribe to several online RSS feeds. This gives me the chance to read news from several different sources which are all waiting for me in my newsfeeder when I have time to read them. Reading the news online means I don't have to carry around several papers all day long. Plus, RSS feeds allow you to get the latest story without having to wait for the next day's paper to be released.

Posted by: LHall | October 31, 2006 9:56 AM

I haven't read the actual Post in years, but I read the online version almost everyday. I find it easy to use and I like the other features as well such as the photo galleries and live discussions. Actually, I find myself reading articles that I might not normally have read if I had to dig through pages and pages of the paper. Newspapers should still do excellent reporting...the means that the readers access it now are just different.

Posted by: Elle | October 31, 2006 10:15 AM

I never read the physical newspaper, because I hated having to handle them. They left my hands feeling disgusting and dirty. They also generated a lot of recycling. Once I could read newspapers on the web, I started reading them a lots more. (It also helps that I can easily read them at work while I'm waiting on something.)

Posted by: Boston | October 31, 2006 10:34 AM

I read my news online because it's faster, more efficient and lest wasteful. Plus with a news service like Google News or Yahoo News, I get a more diverse range of stories. I'm not confined just to the NYT or the Post. I can get stories from Aljazerra, BBC, Hindu Times and Earth Times

Posted by: HMCIV | October 31, 2006 10:49 AM

I have not subscribed to a newspaper in years. I buy the Sunday Washington Post because I like to look through the help wanted section and my son likes the kids page. I don't get the paper daily because a lot of what I like about the Post online isn't available in print. I like the blogs and the photo galleries. I also hate the newspaper format, I would much prefer a slimmer paper in a magazine format than the big hulking pile of bad paper you get now.

I subscribe to a number of magazine

Posted by: Troy | October 31, 2006 11:04 AM

I have not subscribed to a newspaper in years. I buy the Sunday Washington Post because I like to look through the help wanted section and my son likes the kids page. I don't get the paper daily because a lot of what I like about the Post online isn't available in print. I like the blogs and the photo galleries. I also hate the newspaper format, I would much prefer a slimmer paper in a magazine format than the big hulking pile of bad paper you get now.

I subscribe to a number of magazines because I think they do a much better job of investigative reporting. I would say that the number of magazines I subscribe to has increased a great deal in the last 5 years. I now receive 8 magazines a month and would have a terrible times choosing if I had to give up 1 or 2 of them.

Posted by: Troy | October 31, 2006 11:12 AM

What's so confusing to newspaper owners. It's the economics stupid. If you put information online that people need, they would pay for it.
It's the field of supply and demand: build something people need and they will rush to buy it first.
The last time this happened was the internet bubble.
Newspaper people are just lazy right now: they live in the age of Gutenberg and they are still trying to sell scrolls.

Posted by: Dan | October 31, 2006 11:29 AM

I write my own news, so I am in competition.

Posted by: Joe writer | October 31, 2006 11:31 AM

It should be obvious.. The NYT has just endorsed all DEMOCRAT candidates, and no REPUBLICANS.

If that is not an example of bias that reflects their news content, I don't know what is...

Posted by: Jack | October 31, 2006 11:32 AM

No paper for us...who needs all that trash building up in the house? We could never keep up with it...had stacks 6 feet high of un-read or barely-read papers.

News websites let us read only what we want without sifting through stacks of paper and then having to deal with recycling, etc. And all the sites we use are free...so why would I pay to collect trash?

Posted by: Ed | October 31, 2006 11:37 AM

DH in Delaware put it very well. I agree, and I will add this: why should I pay for a printed news product whose information is at best six hours old by the time it hits the stands, when I can get nearly real-time information online?

It truly is arrogance, or ignorance, or a combination of both, for print news organizations not to understand this point. They can never out-ESPN ESPN, nor out-CNN CNN.

This arrogance is borne of the idea that newspapers are the "gate-keepers" of community news and information. Guess what? While newspapers vigilantly have been keeping close watch on the gates, everyone else has trampled down the fence.

Local, in-depth coverage is their only avenue to maintaining their foothold in their communities, and to provide constantly updated information on their Web sites, rather than regurgitating news in their standard, 24-hours news cycle paradim, and to presume to know what is best for its readers.

Posted by: John, Pennsylvania | October 31, 2006 1:11 PM

I used to get daily delivery of the Post when I live in Northern Virgina, and I picked it up at newsstands pretty often for a few years after I moved out here to the Silicon Valley. Lately though, I've quit buying your paper because you've really dropped even the pretense of objectivity.

When you run editorials not just from the American academic cheerleaders for Hamas and Hezbollah, but actually print the anti-American and anti-Israeli screeds from the head-choppers themselves, I put you in the same category that I used to reserve for Pravda, and the People's Daily from China. Your paper is a propaganda organ of the enemy, and therefore not interesting to me.

-jcr

Posted by: John C. Randolph | October 31, 2006 2:28 PM

"Drop dead" to the Chicago Tribune. I used to read it every day back when the paper had some actual news in it. I don't bother since it has been peddling really stupid right wing views. Colonel McCormick at least had some courage and vision, wrong though they might be. Not so the current twits.
M. Flanagan, Chicago

Posted by: Mary Flanagan, Chicago | October 31, 2006 2:32 PM

Come to think of it, why haven't the Greenpeace kiddies crawled down your throats for the horriffic waste of natural resources that comes from printing perishable information on dead trees? Newsprint is an appalling waste of wood, water, energy, labor, and other resources.

-jcr

Posted by: John C. Randolph | October 31, 2006 2:34 PM

I read my city's local free papers, and I'll scavenge for discarded newspapers if I'm bored in an airport, but I haven't bought a newspaper in years.
1.) Why pay anywhere from 50 cents to $2 for something you can get for free online?
2.) Why kill trees?
3.) Why buy something that you're going to throw out at least half of (between advertisements and sections you don't read)?
4.) Why buy something that makes you need to wash your hands after reading?

Posted by: Rebecca Fox | October 31, 2006 2:36 PM

National news is old news by the time I get the paper. Internet does a better job with timeliness. Like the paper for local news. The only reason I keep getting it.

Posted by: FJG | October 31, 2006 2:38 PM

Readership is going down because no one has created a reality show about the newspaper business yet. Actually, if they tried to do a reality show, viewers would find it very boring. It would feature big fat comic-book-nerd type guys with their feet propped up on their desk all day while they cut and paste AP wire copy. People's perception of a newspaper is that it should be glamorous, like the Daily Planet. It couldn't be further from the truth, and clearly the dullness reflects in their papers, and readers pick up on this and cancel their subscription.

Posted by: Inkwell | October 31, 2006 2:44 PM

I live in Kansas City where we have only one choice: the Kansas City Star.

It is definitely and obviously left-leaning. It has never met a new tax, or Democrat that it didn't like.

This spin shows in "reporting" where way too much subtle and not-so-subtle commentary appears.

Often, the front page reads like the opinion page.

I sample the paper about twice a year to confirm that my opinion remains valid. Haven't been surprised in over a decade...

Posted by: Michael B. | October 31, 2006 2:49 PM

My wife signed us up for the local paper to get coupons. I read it for the entertainment value of the letters to the editor and the editorial columns. If you can read those sections of your paper and maintain an optimistic outlook for the future, you need to share whatever drugs you're taking.

Posted by: Jim | November 1, 2006 11:37 AM

I read the WP online nearly everyday. A good read.
I quit the Arizona Republic a couple years ago and just bought the Sunday on the way home from church. In July the AR had a special for $2 week for 13 weeks they would deliver Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon. What a deal, really. Then on the 8th of Oct it was to end but they stopped the Mon only and I am still getting Sat and Sun as of this week.
To me this fits nicely with the rating bureau, I am still carried as a customer to keep their ratings up or they have a really poor method of accounting. Either way it is poor management and leaves the reporting suspect.
I am hanging in there to see how long I can get a delivery. In any event the Fri news is run again on Sunday and since I am a geezer, it makes me think I have physic powers since I don't have to read the articles again, I know what they are about and I am not really sure I read it before. Life is ruff.
Plus the ink comes off in my hands, what a bummer.
Who needs a paper except for the coupons?

Posted by: Skip Swearingen | November 1, 2006 9:17 PM

We started the Post in 1966. At the time, I thoroughly enjoyed writers like Cohen and Raspberry. Favorite of all time --- Henry Mitchell! In the '60's and 70's I read the Post from the front page to the want ads. The proverbial news junkie.

I stopped the Post in 1998 at the height of the Clintoon scandal. It is one thing to support a president but to attack the innocent is shameful.

In my opinion the Post took a hard turn to the left after Mrs. Graham died.

The Post must return to reporting the news. That is the purpose of a newspaper.

Drop the baloney, innuendos, obfuscations, misinformation and misdirection. You should have published Clinton's tedious Ghandi joke promptly. Don't wait four days to publish and subsequently bury it in page three of the Style Section. Tawdry news is news whether the publisher likes it or not.

Let the political parties publish the innuendos, misinformation and misdirection.

The advent of the Internet has eliminated the newspaper. I can read and browse twenty newspapers in the time it took me to read the Post.

Posted by: Al Bullock | November 2, 2006 9:59 AM

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