Newspaper Circulation Falling Faster and Faster

Gone are the days of the smoking-jacketed man with his armchair, pipe and evening paper.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations reported a 2.8 percent decline for weekday circulation and 3.4 percent decline in Sunday circulation for the six months ending in September. This marks an increasingly fast decline in newspaper readership.

And growing online media is only making things harder for an industry that has been struggling with changing readership patterns for decades. According to an Associated Press article on the topic, U.S. newspaper circulation has been dropping steadily since 1987, well before the Internet was widely adopted by the public.

The nation's three largest papers (USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times) all saw declines, and circulation at The Los Angeles Times — the nation's fourth largest paper — dropped a startling 8 percent. The New York Post was one of few papers large papers to see a gain in readership.

Granted, newspapers aren't the household staple they once were, but will they ever really become obsolete? Crossword puzzles aside, can they still offer anything that television and the Internet can't? Do you still read them?

For more about how online media should complement its print counterpart, check out David Lidsky's blog, where he asks "What Do You Want From A Magazine Website"?

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4 Comments

  • Eliot (Amy)

    This is fascinating. My husband and I got a paper the last two Sundays, out of nostalgia for that coffee + bagels + paper = golden bliss time, but found we just could not read the paper. We have both grown so used to reading online, being able to click and go directly to articles, related articles, etc., that the physicality of the paper is too unwieldy now.

    I myself think newspapers tend to do TERRIBLE jobs representing themselves online - there's a few good examples, like the Roanoke Times - www.redinked.com today I wrote about them - but Salon.com continues to really try and respond to how users use the web instead of trying to mimic the physical newspaper, which is usually its downfall... very interesting.
    P.S. I love this blog.

  • Bill Gordon

    As a sixty-four-year-old married man living in a small rural town in western-Missouri, I still fondly remember living in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town, seething with smoldering slag piles and sulphur-rich air, and watching my mom and dad discussing the "news" items in the home-delivered weekly BARNESBORO (PA) STAR newspaper to find out what refreshments were served at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Blank Name last Sunday when their married daughter and her two children visited for the day; an explanation of why the Cambria County and Ebensburg high schools would be closed again this year on both the opening day of the Trout Season and the opening day of Deer Season; an article about the upcoming church picnic at the Italian Church (not to be confused the Irish Church, the Greek Orthodox Church or the Slavic Church; a feature article, complete with amateur snapshot photos, about the family of the crossing guard lady who had recently returned from a weekend trip to Pittsburgh; and a long discussion about who the bride was in that engagement announcement ("Wasn't that Mable Jones' sister's daughter who was such a troublemaker in school?" "No dear. That was Florence Jones. This girl is the cousin of John Doe over in Houtzdale. You know, the one who limps and manages the bar at the VFW.") Now THAT'S news you can use! I suggest every printed newspaper in America seek out and place on the payroll an eager, literate, curious and gregarious retired person and simply encourage that person to snoop about town, camera and notebook in hand, reporting 10-12 snippets of non-vital information on the Real World Happenings among stay-at-home moms; conversations overheard at The Senior Center; the latest gossip from the Good Ol' Boys Network, headquartered at the corner table at the cafe on Main Street; answers to "The Question of the Week" posed to elementery school children; and, if local gossip is REALLY slow, simply find someone over the age of 70 and say: "Tell me about your life." Typically, answers to that single question to a septgenarian may have to be serialized in subsequent editions. All that news may not be fit to print...but it certainly is fit to increase subscriptions geometrically. And, by the way, make the crossword puzzles easier to complete and reproduce them in much larger print so that little kids and old fogies like I am can read them.

  • Lee

    I read the newspaper, but increasingly find it frustrating and non-satisfying.

    1. Vague reporting, often poorly written, or written for 3rd graders.
    2. Overt political orientation of the reporter.
    3. Too much bad news.
    4. Too many facts, and not enough analysis.
    5. Too many ads.

    What keeps me reading? The physical feeling I get in the morning at the breakfast table when I crack open the paper, sip my coffee and begin to learn something. It's not the same experience sitting in front of a screen pushing buttons.

  • Brian

    I would like to see a study/report regarding the increase in web traffic to those newspapers' websites. I would bet that those very same readers who put down their printed news, have found that they can log on in the morning/afternoon/evening/weekend to find updated stories with rich, searchable content.
    So if the scales are shifting, why isn't that making news?