Lisa Snedeker reported in a recent issue of Media Life Magazine that bleak circulation numbers among many of the big regional and national dailies are clouding some sunshiney news. And there's other good news out there about smaller dailies.
Snedeker wrote: "Among 95 mid-size papers with circulations between 75,000 and 200,000, a dozen had positive numbers over the past year. In total they were down 3.6 percent on weekdays. Gainers included the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Baton Rouge Advocate and the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, each up nearly 1 percent or more.
"Among the 403 papers with circulations under 75,000, some 50 showed gains in circulation. But perhaps the most positive thing to note about newspapers is that a good chunk of those circulation declines were managed, where publishers intentionally slashed what's these days referred to as junk circulation, papers being sent out to areas beyond the core readership or that are essentially given away.
"Papers are trimming outlying circulation in order to focus on providing deeper coverage of their core markets. They are also doing it to save money, of course. But it's a move that advertisers should welcome as well, since those outlying readers are not likely to be their target consumers. They lose nothing by seeing that circulation slashed. What they are left with is a more condensed readership, and those who are much more likely to buy their goods."
Still, there is terrible loss involved -- for former subscribers who reside in those outlying areas. Many have access to Internet and broadcast news, of course, but they love a newspaper in their hands, and they particularly loved their metro daily even if they did live way out there in the country.
When the Star-Telegram began pulling in its considerable circulation reach several years ago, the ranchers, farmers and other rural folks called often to object. Some said they'd grown up with the paper and not getting home delivery was like a death in the family. But, tough country Texans that they were, they generally understood the loss and the reasoning. "Good luck to y'all," more than a few said.