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].