You can call me myopic, but I tend to
pay attention to any news that details the current health of the
newspaper business. After all, it's all I've done for the past 22
I was a little curious when I saw a
listing of the top daily newspapers currently going. You can talk ad
sales all you want, and they are what keeps us going, but the health
of a newspaper is truly based upon its circulation. If you're not
selling any copies, no one is going to want to advertise with you.
Here are the top 10 daily newspapers,
according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation:
The Wall Street Journal- 2,293,798
USA Today- 1,713,833
The New York Times- 1,613,865
Los Angeles Times- 641,369
Daily News- 535,875
San Jose Mercury News- 529,999
New York Post- 522,868
The Washington Post- 462,228
Chicago Sun-Times- 432,455
Denver Post- 412,669
Most of those are no brainers. USA
Today is sold across the country and The Wall Street Journal has a
very specific, and large, target audience. And in a city of 12
million, The New York Times should sell 1.7 million copies. Actually,
they should sell a lot more than that, and therein lies a lot of the
And the Times numbers are massaged a
little. That circulation takes into account visits to their website.
In actual copy sales, they're way below a million a day.
Of course, these numbers are the kind
that us in the small town newspaper business can't even begin to
comprehend. They all sell more papers in one day than we will in,
well, I can't count that high.
All those cities have a population of
more than a million, or at least they do if you count all the
outlying suburban areas, so while those numbers might seem impressive
to us, they are cause for concern. Imagine if you had a potential
audience of 2.5 million and only sold 400,000 copies.
And it only gets worse when a potential
advertiser tells you they heard some TV show was watched by 1.6
million people and they were thinking of putting an ad there.
That's not quite the problem we have
here. Aside from large chain stores, none of our potential local
advertisers are going buy TV time. Our main problem is trying to put
out news twice a week in a world where everything has to be known
And believe it or not, that's a
problem these big daily's have to deal with also. They might have a
new edition hitting the street every morning at 5 a.m., but
everything they've got has already been reported on by smiling TV
news anchor or posted somewhere, usually incorrectly, on the
They use the same tactics we do to try
and fight it. We post stuff to our website, send out a daily email
and even having breaking news alerts you can sign up for. Our website
gets a lot of hits (a LOT), and we have a couple thousand people
signed up for the daily email and breaking news, but we always hear
the same thing: "I saw that a couple of days ago on TV." Usually
said when our Wednesday edition has something that happened over the
What's the point of all this? Not
much, really. We're not in our death throes and our circulation
rate is holding steady. We all sometimes whistle past the graveyard
by saying, "What will we be doing five years from now when
newspapers no longer exist?" Then we laugh.
Hopefully the saving grace, at least
until I reach retirement age in about two decades, will be small town
newspapers surviving because there's nobody else to report their
news and keep an eye on their elected officials.
Sure, the really big stuff will always
get reported on by somebody, but you're not going to see them
sitting at town hall meetings to make sure a politician doesn't
step across the line. You need us for that and we'll keep doing it
as long as you'll have us.
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