Warning: this post contains graphic scenes

Circulation declines. Source: The Awl. Click for full graphic.

Today, a roundup of some graphs related to yesterday’s release of newspaper circulation numbers in the United States.

Warning, these graphs may disturb anyone who believes printed news isn’t fading fast. Discretion is advised.

  • How much has newspaper household penetration fallen since WW2? From almost 130 per cent to only 33 per cent. Allan Mutter charts it.
  • How is circulation changing at the country’s largest papers? Hint: You wouldn’t want to work for the SF Chronicle. The NewsCred blog paints a colorful but ugly picture.
  • How has circulation changed for six major newspapers since 1990? If you’re the Wall Street Journal (which can count its paid online subscribers in total circulation) things are great. Otherwise, this is a roller coaster that now only goes downhill. The Awl tracks the trends.
  • And finally, how have newspapers themselves reported circulation? With fewer hard numbers, more references to percentage changes and a focus on trying to tell their own positive story. Again, from The Awl.

Newspapers and TV losing audience

Bad news this week for the newspaper and television industries in the United States.

Research by the Newspaper Association of America revealed declining circulations during the six months ending March 31, 2007:

According to the analysis, the average daily circulation for the 745 newspapers reporting for comparable periods was 44,961,066, a decrease of 2.1 per cent (from 45,902,536) over the same period a year ago. On Sunday, the average circulation for the 601 newspapers reporting for comparable periods was 48,102,437, a decrease of 3.1 per cent (from 49,639,380) over the same period a year ago.

Ever optimistic, the NAA report positioned those numbers deep in its report, and instead highlighted the fact that newspapers are not losing subscribers as quickly as in the past: a churn rate of 36.5 per cent in 2006, compared with 42.1 per cent in 2004.

US newspapers should see a lift in their “in-market readership” numbers, however, if the Audit Bureau of Circulations approves a proposal to report combined print and online readership. Readership of US papers’ online editions grew more than five per cent in the last year, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

And an Associated Press story today says US television networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox had 2.5 million fewer viewers in the past two months than during the same period last year.

Everyone has a theory to explain the plummeting ratings: early Daylight Savings Time, more reruns, bad shows, more shows being recorded or downloaded or streamed.

Scariest of all for the networks, however, is the idea that many people are now making their own television schedules. The industry isn’t fully equipped to keep track of them, and as a result the networks are scrambling to hold on to the nearly US$8.8 billion they collected during last spring’s ad-buying season.

Lost Remote looks at the numbers and its readers add their analysis in the comments section [hat tip: Rob Hyndman].

Latest newspaper circulation report

Daily newspapers over 25,000 audited circulation. Source: ABC [click for more]
[adapted from Audit Bureau of Circulation]

As websites continue to draw more readers and more advertising dollars, the news isn’t all bad for newspapers.

Latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation show that the Dominion Post, Hawke’s Bay Today, Southland Times, Taranaki Daily News and the Waikato Times generally retained circulation in the audit period ending Sept 30.

The table above shows audited national circulations of daily papers over 25,000 circulation for the past three six-month audit periods. You’ll find heaps more info on the ABC website.

The numbers look quite bad for Fairfax’s recently acquired and renamed Independent Financial Review, but as John Drinnan explains, that is substantially due to Fairfax cutting back on promotional copies.