Monday, November 24, 2008

Circulation problems at the News & Observer... the N&O has lost 18,000 subscribers in the last year and a half

John in Carolina crunched the numbers, and discovered the News & Observer has lost 18,788 subscribers in the past 18 months -- more than 1,000 a month.

Here's a recap of the "subscriber flight" at some of McClatchy's prominent newspapers:

  • The Sacramento Bee has lost 15,500 subscribers in the past 6 months
  • The Miami Herald has lost 29,339 subscribers in the past 6 months
  • The News & Observer has lost 18,788 subscribers in past 18 months
McClatchy's print circulation is in free fall, and nobody can predict the bottom.
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20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good Job can you do all papers?

Anonymous said...

I think this is deliberate. They are cutting off far-out circulation and concentrating on the close-in metro area. They charge ad rates on delivering in this core area, not the far-out regions, and it saves gas (once touching $5 a gallon) to service these regions. This is an incredibly short-sighted policy because MNI has failed to notice its most well-heeled subscribers have moved to the exurbs, largely because of the crime waves (unreported or under-reported) in the urban areas. These wealthy people are readers, and they have the money to read ads and buy furniture for their new homes. Older, established residents who no longer are interested in equipping their houses, live in the close-in areas. This is one of the things newspapers are doing to starve themselves of revenue and commit suicide. It is not just reading habits that are changing, but newspaper delivery patterns have changed.

Anonymous said...

The N&O cut out its state home delivery years ago. It cost more to deliver the papers than it made in revenue.

The current losses are caused by two things:

-- Cutbacks in call pressure, which is the telemarketing that counteracts natural subscriber churn.

-- The policy of driving readers to the Internet and making everything available online.

The paper hasn't cut back its delivery at all in the wealthiest areas of its territory -- or the poorest for that matter.

One assumes that some controlled circulation shrinkage is smart. The trick is balancing the savings in newsprint and delivery costs against the possibility that the ratecard will drop.

In all, the N&O readership is as big or bigger than ever, though it hasn't paced the growth of the area's population. But an increasing share of that readership is on the so-far nonremunerative web.

Anonymous said...

OK, we are in a recession. But when does it end? Will the turnaround come in time to save MNI, or will there be more layoffs in 2009. Unfortunately, the outlook does not look promising. I got ridiculed by Howard Weaver a few months ago by posting on his site that not only was a recession coming, but that it could last until 2010. Now I am reading some respected economists who say the damage is so great, they are looking at no recovery before 2011. So what does this mean for the future of MNI? Not good at all. A prolonged recession means even greater declines in revenues, and that in turn means more layoffs. As the latest Citicorp bailout, this problem is far from over, and healing can't begin until the banks confess all of their problem assets, which incredibly they have not yet done. This is not the fault of MNI employees, but they are really going to feel its force. Instead of talking about these bridges to the future, and the wonders of the Internet, MNI needs to put together a worst-case scenario that saves the base of this company, its newspapers. And it needs to clear out these do-nothing Sacto vice presidents who are leading the newspapers to utter disaster.

Anonymous said...

Howard does seem to be extraneous at the moment, doesn't he? That visionary thing wore better when we were solvent. That said, he's a good guy and a good newsman who has been sadly overtaken by events. Trampled, in fact.

The papers will muddle through, smaller but still profitable. It's hard to kill a simple technology. The company, however, might not make it.

Things that give me hope: When times get serious, people need real news. And newspapers are cheap. People without much money can afford them. There are huge papers in very poor countries. Bad news is good news for us, sometimes.

Anonymous said...

8:01 Have you lost your mind "people without much money can afford them". People without much money is going to buy food, pay rent, make their house payment and get a burger now and then. The last thing they would think about is buy a newspaper.

Archer05 said...

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine wrote this concerning the future need of journalists:
“In a market the size of Philadelphia, based on feasible audience and ad revenue, rather than a [200-400-person] newsroom, they came out with [35] people and the job descriptions were different: lots of content creators, few editors, and the addition of people to work with the community. That was a start.”

He also sees freelance writers as important in the scaled down version of the new journalism model. Perhaps writing at home in their pajamas, or even in the nude, will inspire some of these curmudgeons to reinvent themselves for the new market. Of course losing the umbilical cord means they have to breath on their own, scary stuff that.

Anonymous said...

Hey, the newspaper's only 50 cents or so, it lasts all day and has help-wanted ads. I'd cancel the cable first. So, no, I don't think I've lost my mind.

As I said, it's hard to kill simple technology. We still eat with spoons.

Anonymous said...

I like that 'few editors' bit.

Jarvis has obviously never encountered raw copy. Reporters often, quite accidentally, misspell names, miss the point, put the interesting stuff at the bottom and use lazy language that constitutes libel. And they're the professionals.

I shudder to imagine citizen-generated news coverage. Indeed, apart from the impenetrable prose they would generate, and the ever-present risk of error and libel suits, why would regular citizens sit through the numbing boredom of a planning commission or school board meeting that didn't directly concern them?

Making basic sense is quite hard. All you have to do is read some of the amateur comments here: angry, poorly punctuated and spelled. And so often the precise point of the frothing argument is unclear.

Editing is foremost quality control, and people won't pay for junk product.

MrEdd said...

Papers offer to little information on any topic, and no forum for debate.

The ongoing merger of the cell phone, PDA, and ultra mini PC markets has more people than ever carrying an internet connection around in their purse or pocket.

Papers generate trash and debris to be disposed of. Distribution is more costly.

And for me, I have little interest in news if I cant debate it on it's merits or lack thereof. Online there are forums like we are using now. With a paper - NADA. So this point is (as we say) not debatable.

Anonymous said...

they are paying for a junk product now

Anonymous said...

One thing that so many of these arguments are predicated on is the ubiquity of news. But news and information isn't magically self-generating. It comes from people paid to gather it.

Most of the news on the net -- on your PDA, PC or via your fillings-- comes from newspapers. Used to be that advertisers footed the bill for you. Not anymore.

So, in the not-far-off future, people who want reliable information, as opposed to amateur blog garble, will pay for it.

Basic market economics says that the price of quality information will rise. News won't be for the mass market anymore, which is a loss for democracy. But knowledge is power, and the powerful will pay.

Archer05 said...

Anonymous said...
“Editing is foremost quality control, and [people won't pay for junk product.”]
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MNI in a steady decline-
By Jove, I think you've got it!

Anonymous said...

Ah, but you ignore the fact that thousands still pay. And they will pay more.

Everyone, of course, is entitled to consume any media he sees fit. For myself, I'd be willing to pay more to know when the superhighway will be built through my back yard, what the test scores are at my kids' schools, who's funding my mayor and council, and to follow the debates among the power brokers.

I haven't yet seen an alternative to my newspaper.

Many people feel differently. But it is their loss. They'll get the road through the back yard -- not me.

nick said...

AFP - 2 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US government vowed Monday it was working to shore up the ailing economy, hours after stepping in to guarantee potential losses at ...
US agrees to Citigroup bailout
citi own 3 million stake on mcclatchy

Anonymous said...

8:18 If it takes you ALL day to read the newspaper then you must be the slowest reader in history. I know you have lost your mind to give up cable for a newspaper unless your cat needs it. Really I'm kind of lost for words but need to make this short since it's probably all day reading for you.

Anonymous said...

One morning last week my newspaper was not in my driveway as usual. It usually is delivered about 5 a.m. As I left for work at 8 a.m. that day, I saw the delivery guy headed toward my house. I pulled my car up beside his and he rolled down the window and handed me my copy, along with an apology and an explanation that there had been press problems. It was only then that it occured to me that when my subscription runs out next month, it will be money out of the delivery guy's pocket. He's probably a college student or someone with a couple of jobs, trying to get by. I really don't want to hurt him, but I guess I will when, for the first time in 29 years, I won't renew my Wichita Eagle subscription.

Anonymous said...

The sad truth is that delivery person is not an employee of McClatchy. No benifits at all. Every day in the KC Star they advertise for a contractor to do delivery. I feel for that person but not McClatchy.

Anonymous said...

Years ago, when there were still paper boys on bicycles, there was a great cartoon that featured a newspaper exec explaining that all of the news gathering and news printing technology all came down to a 13 year old kid on a bicycle.

Duncandog said...

I am a contracted carrier for Mcclatchy in Bellingham, WA. They pay $.10/paper on weekdays and a little more on Sundays, with route subsidies that don't pencil out to $12/Hr, gross, and that is based on the summer delivery time in good weather.

This means that the carrier must foot the bill for all expenses, including bags, which the paper sells them for about $20/case(1000ea.) They do not pay mileage.

I would like to see the national average for delivery compensation. I know that the Vancouver Sun pays $.14ea. for delivery...