Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Newspaper execs say circulation declines reflect shift to Web, less discounting

Editors and publishers at some of the newspapers hardest hit by
Monday's FAS-FAX reports say steps need to be taken to maintain
current readers while attracting new ones. But to many, the
circulation declines announced today by the Audit Bureau of
Circulations came as no surprise, given the overall industry trend.

But most say the circulation measurements are incomplete because they
still do not take into account growing Web site activity. Others also
said they had lost circulation deliberately by ending or reducing
discounted programs as their value becomes diminished in the ABC
measurements. "Circulation will continue to drop until there will be a
plateauing, then I expect a rapid decline," said Tom Fiedler,
executive editor of The Miami Herald, noting that he does not expect
circulation to increase during his lifetime, which means newspapers
must focus on the Web as a genuine delivery system. "Newspapers will
become supplemental reading for a very elite audience," he added, and
the online edition "will be where the popular press lives." "We are
well aware of it, that newspapers continue to struggle to reach their
audience," said Anne Gordon, managing editor of The Philadelphia
Inquirer, which suffered an 11,000-copy drop in daily circulation, and
about 30,000 on Sunday. "It's not a surprise." Still, Gordon was among
several who pointed to increasing Web activity as a factor that the
current FAS-FAX measurements do not address. "The Philadelphia
Inquirer has more readers than it has ever had if you factor in the
Web. We have well over one million readers." At the Herald -- which
has experienced a 4.3-percent drop in weekday print circulation since
September 2004 -- Fiedler says he sees a similar corresponding shift
online, where Herald.com has seen an "accelerated increase" of about
30 percent per year: "We are seeing that our readership is not
declining if you include online -- it is actually growing. Source: Joe
Strupp, Editor & Publisher

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