Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why the Newspapers are Dying

This morning's Minneapolis Star-Tribune provides an easy answer to that question.

Buried back on page D2 in the Business Section is the article headlined, "Sunday circulation up 5.7% to 504,616 at Star Tribune." A bylined story by David Phelps, no less! Well, that's the local spin on the story that I read yesterday via a link on the Drudge Report titled, "Newspaper Circ down 5%..."

Now let's pause and think. Who is interested in this information? Newspaper insiders? Check. How about American culture watchers? Check. Advertising managers at local businesses? Double Check!

So where's the list with the top 25 papers in the country and current rankings? Everyone interested in this story knows that's the format that this story follows. Put the local spin on it if you want, but give us the basic facts. Drudge does this, of course, with his link to "THE LIST ..."

I know Drudge will have this story every few months and will link to the list, usually at Editor and Publisher. The Strib? They seldom ever include "all the facts" with any story.

By the way, just in case you are keeping score on an ongoing basis, here's the past few years of history, as I track it. These are the daily circulations, not the Sunday figures. (click to enlarge)

The bottom line? Most newspapers have suffered circulation declines of 15 to 20 percent over the past four years.

Curious about my selection of papers to track this way?

Well, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post are there just because they are the "National Papers." I've read and admired the Journal for about 40 years. I used to subscribe to the Sunday New York Times until they lost their ability to do objective news. At least they now have a decent truth detector in Tom McGuire at Just One Minute. The Los Angeles Times was also once a good paper. They also come with a good truth detector at Patterico's Pontifications.

"The Strib", or Minneapolis Star Tribune, was once a halfway decent paper too. We still have a subscription in order to read a bit of local news. Sure needs a truth detector, though. Powerline Blog at least keeps them a bit honest.

And The Oregonian was my home town paper when I grew up in Portland. They earned my admiration for taking on the unions and surviving a bitter five-year long illegal strike beginning in 1959.