By Robert MacMillan
November 5, 2007
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Circulation fell at many U.S. newspapers in the six months to September, according to statistics released on Monday that for the first time include Internet readership in a bid by publishers to boost their attractiveness to advertisers.
Average daily paid circulation for newspapers printed Monday through Friday fell 2.6 percent and Sunday circulation fell 3.5 percent for the six-month period that ended September 30, 2007, compared with the year before, according to publishers’ statistics released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
In the top 25 markets, average daily paid circulation fell 2.4 percent, while Sunday circulation fell 4.6 percent.
The declines come as readers move online, but they also stem from publishers’ efforts to cut discounted copies from their subscription rolls, said a spokeswoman for the Newspaper Association of America.
Some papers, particularly in California and Florida, are dealing with the weak housing market, while others face their own regional trends, such as in Michigan where papers have cut jobs as they serve markets hurt by the slumping auto industry.
Most big city dailies reported that average daily paid print circulation fell. Dow Jones & Company Inc said daily circulation at The Wall Street Journal, including paid subscriptions to its Web site, dropped 1.5 percent, while The New York Times fell 4.5 percent.
The New York Daily News and New York Post reported circulation declines, with the Post down 5.2 percent and the Daily News down 1.7 percent.
Advertisers long have considered print circulation key to determining where they spend their dollars, but publishers hope the Web numbers will provide a better picture of the true reach of newspapers.
“We generally agree that we can now truly gauge the impact of newspapers across the variety of media platforms that they truly represent,” said Dave Walker, chief executive of Newspaper Services of America, which buys ad space in papers.
Gannett Co Inc reported a 1 percent rise in daily paid circulation at USA Today, while the Philadelphia Inquirer said circulation rose 2.3 percent.
The Washington Post reported a 3.23 percent drop, while the Chicago Tribune fell 2.9 percent. Its parent company Tribune Co said circulation fell at Long Island, New York’s Newsday, but rose 0.5 percent at the Los Angeles Times.
The new data includes the number of people estimated to read a paper, not just how many papers were sold.
Many also are reporting usage of their Web sites, as well as a figure that tries to count print and Web site use without counting people twice who use both.
Gannett’s Asbury Park Press in New Jersey has average daily print circulation of 144,072. But it claims more than 650,000 print readers, more than 850,000 unique Web users and some 832,000 people, without counting people who read both editions more than once.
It is hard to say if advertisers will buy the new numbers.
Alan Mutter, a former newspaper editor who writes a blog on newspaper and media issues called Reflections of a Newsosaur, said many newspaper Web site visitors to not remain long enough to make them worthwhile for advertisers.
“I think it’s certainly valuable in the sense that advertisers have something they can count on and make reasonable judgments about,” he said. “The question is, are they going to like the numbers they see?”
Edward Montes, managing director for Havas’s online media buying arm Media Contacts, said online-only ad buying at local papers has never been very effective.
“The increase in the data points allows us to more accurately project and measure, and make sure we’re spending our client’s money effectively,” said Montes, whose clients include Sears Holding Corp, Fidelity Investments and Goodyear Tires. “They’re saying print is declining, but oh, by the way, our online properties are increasing, but I don’t think it will change the buying dynamic significantly.”
(Editing by Maureen Bavdek/Tim Dobbyn)
New York Times Publisher: Managing Transition From Print to Internet
By Eytan Avriel
February 8, 2007
Despite his personal fortune and impressive lineage, Arthur Sulzberger, owner, chairman and publisher of the most respected newspaper in the world, is a stressed man. Why would the man behind the New York Times be stressed?
Well, profits from the paper have been declining for four years, and the Times company’s market cap has been shrinking, too. Its share lags far behind the benchmark, and just last week, the group Sulzberger leads admitted suffering a $570 million loss because of write offs and losses at the Boston Globe. As if that weren’t enough, his personal bank, Morgan Stanley, recently set out on a campaign that could cost the man control over the paper.
All this may explain why Sulzberger does not talk with the press. But perhaps the rarified alpine air at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, which ended last week, relaxes the CEOs of the world’s leading companies. And what began as a casual chat ended in a fascinating glimpse into Sulzberger’s world, and how he sees the future of the news business.
Given the constant erosion of the printed press, do you see the New York Times still being printed in five years? “I really don’t know whether we’ll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don’t care either,” he says. Sulzberger is focusing on how to best manage the transition from print to Internet.
“The Internet is a wonderful place to be, and we’re leading there,” he points out. The Times, in fact, has doubled its online readership to 1.5 million a day to go along with its 1.1 million subscribers for the print edition.
Sulzberger says the New York Times is on a journey that will conclude the day the company decides to stop printing the paper. That will mark the end of the transition. It’s a long journey, and there will be bumps on the road, says the man at the driving wheel, but he doesn’t see a black void ahead. Asked if local papers have a future, Sulzberger points out that the New York Times is not a local paper, but rather a national one based in New York that enjoys more readers from outside, than within, the city.
Classifieds have long been a major source of income to the press, but the business is moving to the Internet. Sulzberger agrees, but what papers lose, Web sites gain. Media groups can develop their online advertising business, he explains. Also, because Internet advertising doesn’t involve paper, ink and distribution, companies can earn the same amount of money even if it receives less advertising revenue.
What about the costs of development and computerization? “These costs aren’t anywhere near what print costs,” Sulzberger says. “The last time we made a major investment in print, it cost no less than $1 billion. Site development costs don’t grow to that magnitude.”
The New York Times recently merged its print and online news desks. Did it go smoothly, or were there ruffled feathers? Which team is leading the way today? “You know what a newspaper’s news desk is like? It’s like the emergency room at a hospital, or an office in the military. Both organizations are very goal-oriented, and both are very hard to change,” Sulzberger says. Once change begins, it happens quickly, so the transition was difficult, he says.
“But once the journalists grasped the concept, they flipped and embraced it, and supported the move.” That included veteran managers, too. How are you preparing for changes to the paper that are dictated by the Internet? “We live in the Internet world. We have, for example, five people working in a special development unit whose only job is to initiate and develop things related to the electronic world – Internet, cellular, whatever comes.
The average age of readers of the New York Times print edition is 42, Sulzberger says, and that hasn’t changed in 10 years. The average age of readers of its Internet edition is 37, which shows that the group is also managing to recruit young readers for both the printed version and Web site. Also, the Times signed a deal with Microsoft to distribute the paper through a software program called Times Reader, Sulzberger says. The software enables users to conveniently read the paper on screens, mainly laptops.
“I very much believe that the experience of reading a paper can be transfered to these new devices.” Will it be free? No, Sulzberger says. If you want to read the New York Times online, you will have to pay. In the age of bloggers, what is the future of online newspapers and the profession in general?
There are millions of bloggers out there, and if the Times forgets who and what they are, it will lose the war, and rightly so, according to Sulzberger.
“We are curators, curators of news. People don’t click onto the New York Times to read blogs. They want reliable news that they can trust,” he says. “We aren’t ignoring what’s happening. We understand that the newspaper is not the focal point of city life as it was 10 years ago. “Once upon a time, people had to read the paper to find out what was going on in theater. Today there are hundreds of forums and sites with that information,” he says. “But the paper can integrate material from bloggers and external writers. We need to be part of that community and to have dialogue with the online world.”
And while on community, the scandal about Jayson Blair, the reporter caught plagiarizing and fabricating, hurt the brand, not the business, he says. Blair was forced to quit in May 2003. You’re one of the few papers that continues to print on broadsheet, which people consider to be too big and clumsy. Until when? “Until when? The New York Times has no intention of changing that,” Sulzberger promises. At any rate, transitioning from broadsheet to tabloid would be prohibitively expensive, he says.
Do you feel that the newspaper world is weakening? Are advertisers pressing harder for better deals? “Advertisers always press harder for better deals and influence over content,” Sulzberger says. But the New York Times has nothing to apologize for and no reason to fold, “as long as I’m sure that what we wrote and what we’re about to write is right.”