Every year this report comes out and every year it says the same thing. The circulation of newspapers is declining and there appears to be no bottom in site. Of the top 20 papers 18 of them saw decline in circulation and it’s funny to hear the excuses:
Increased use of “do not call” lists … sparked a slowdown in subscription solicitations by phone. “That is a major tool” that [has been] taken away.
I’m crying over that one. Especially since I just remembered to sign up my new number a couple of days ago. What about this one:
The circulation measurements are incomplete because they still do not take into account growing Web site activity.
What?! Did I read that right? Major papers are now trying to say that the web is a viable alternative? Papers may have been increasing their web presence over the past few years but this is a first time I’ve heard that web traffic should be included in circulation numbers. But wait, shouldn’t this also mean that there are other things on the web which should be given more credit?
This just begs the question of why has the web suddenly become the hero when it use to be the sidekick? I can remember back in the day when I was a little terror that I enjoyed reading the paper, not the funnies but the actual paper. Back then the paper was more lively and tried to engage you. What happened? Perhaps the best explanation can be gleamed from a little article from Cagle. As papers have aged over the past years they seem to be aging right along with us. The problem being they were always 20 years older then us to begin with. The material is drier, there’s more editing, and what happened to all the pretty pictures? Perhaps the two quotes Cagle mentions will explain everything:We would never hire an editorial cartoonist at the Times, because we would never give so much power to one man. We don’t like editorial cartoons at the Times because you can’t edit a cartoon like you can edit words.
Papers are so afraid of losing circulation they would sooner die a slow death then to have a handful of artists provoke a response. “Oh no we made 100 readers angry and they wrote to say they are no longer reading us!” “Um sir, those 100 people showed the cartoon to 1000 people and we now have 500 more readers then before.” You know that’s exactly what would happen. I’ll bet money that most of you have at one point opened up a newspaper because you remember a funny editorial. Does this mean that newspapers will eventually go away? Nah, there will always be some kind newspaper but the real question is when will the web overtake them in importance and when that happens will webcomics be there to trump syndicates?