USA Today, the most popular daily newspaper in the U.S., reported a 7.5% decline in paid circulation in the past 6 months. Only the Wall St. Journal (WSJ) has reported a subscriber increase, although it was a slight 0.6%. This put the WSJ at over 2M subscribers, just 30K less than USA today. The New York Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution both fell about 20%.
“The [New York] Post, like many newspapers, has increased newstand prices as publishers come under increasing pressure to ratchet up revenue as their ad sales drop.” This process, a cyclic self-destructive market mechanism, is contributing to the steep decline in the number of newspapers. Until the newspaper industry can construct a viable model for profitability, newspapers will continue to close.
Does the world need newspapers? No. Does the world need more opinion articles? No. Does the world need professional reporters? Yes. They are our watchdogs, our synthesizers of current events. They sit through interminable state and federal hearings and give us, the readers, the short version. They read pages of budget projections and state and federal agency rulings and give us the “Cliff Notes” version. They ferret out scandals brewing in government and industry and raise red flags. How will those reporters get paid if there are no newspapers?