Thursday, April 26, 2007

That Sinking Feeling

Is anybody worried yet?

The Audit Bureau of Circulations releases its spring numbers on Monday and industry sources told E&P that overall daily circulation for the six months ending March 2007 is expected to sink approximately 2.5% while Sunday will drop around 3.0%. Major metro papers are bearing the brunt of the responsibility for the declines. Lots of papers that are showing daily drops of 5% or more, according to circulation sources, include: The Dallas Morning News and The Austin American-Statesman. According to the rumor mill, you can add the Startlegram to that list, too. Gary Pruitt, CEO of McClatchy -- the S-T's parent company, explained during a Q1 earnings call on Tuesday that his company will continue to experience declines in circulation. (It was not too long ago that McClatchy could boast of constant circ gains). To give a taste of what is to come, during Q1, McClatchy executives said daily circulation fell 3.6% and Sunday dropped 3.9%.

Pruitt attributed half of the McClatchy decrease to the culling of third-party circulation and the typical run rate, meaning the natural losses in circulation due to readers flocking to the Internet for news. Third-party circulation includes employee, hotel, and Newspapers in Education copies. He said that when ABC relaxed the third-party rule in the 1990s, McClatchy opposed the moved. While the company was more judicious using third-party circulation, Knight Ridder wasn't. "Many newspaper companies used [third-party] to grow circulation. McClatchy didn't rely on it to a great extent but Knight Ridder (the S-T's former parent company did," he said during the call. McClatchy is busy trimming third-party circulation from the 20 former Knight Ridder papers it acquired last year.

So what does this mean for Cowtown's daily? Considering that they are moving heaven and earth to launch the radically re-designed newspaper on Sunday and you can always count on some people to hate change -- I think Monday, with release of circulation figures and all of the bitching that will inevitably come from readers, won't be all smiles in the newsroom.

1 comment:

The Stash Dauber said...

i don't know about other readers, but i like the fact they devoted more space to the nyt crossword. my sweetie 'n' i are anachronisms -- we're into "the romance of the artifact," in spite of the fact that except for the fort worth section, it mainly contains stories we've already read on fark.com. print dailies have the same problem record stores (r.i.p.) had -- how to monetize what's essentially an obsolete biz model. maybe try offering unique _print-only_ content (which is also known as swimming against the tide). my guess is that none of the dailies' websites are yet lucrative enough to offset the loss from print circulation/ads. a tough row to hoe in a biz (global news-gathering) that's inherently expensive.