Today's FAS-FAX report is numbing in its lack of revelation. The newspaper industry's circulation swoon continues, and at a pace that hasn't changed much over the last three years.
Daily: Down 2.5%
Sunday: Down 3.5%
So nine questions on how today's numbers will drive the next set of market moves:
1) Last year, newspaper publishers said they were ending junk (freebies+) circulation that advertisers really didn't want and that those terminations were largely responsible for the 2%+ decline in circulation. They said 2007 would be better. Now who believes them that 2008 is the year that those cuts will have cycled through?
2) The New York Times wowed Wall Street with 3Q earnings, in part based on a 4.1% increase in circulation revenues, due in part to its aggressive price increases. Now, does the Times have a significant new churn problem, as evidenced by its woeful numbers, down 4.5% daily, and huge 7.59% on Sunday?
3) The Times' newest competition, the Wall Street Journal, had a smaller turndown of 1.5% daily. So don't the Times deepening woes just whet the appetite of the Journal's soon-to-be-owner Rupert Murdoch?
4) Today, soon-to-be-former New York Daily News TV columnist (and Fresh Air contributor) David Bianculli announced his own place on the web, www.tvworthwatching.com. Isn't it a good irony that he did it on the day his paper reported its circulation decline of 6.8% on Sunday and 1.7% daily. It's another sign of the times that the top talent is jumping (and being pushed) off boats as they take on more water.
5) With the Star Tribune down (6.5% daily and 4.3% Sunday ) and the Pioneer Press eking out .1% increases, daily and Sunday, don't you think the MinnPost people -- set to launch their site Thursday are smiling, seeing, at this point, only upside?
6) With the Tribune's top three papers all down on Sunday (Chicago Tribune, 2.1%; L.A. Times, 5.1% and Newsday, 4.3%), how much deeper a hole will the Tribune have to dig out of, if the Zell deal falls apart, on FCC moves or other factors?
7) With Scripps re-juggling its
newspaper, broadcast, cable and Internet assets, how stable is its
partnership in Denver, with Media News, as their combined papers took a
13.5% combined hit on Sunday?
8) With Sunday down more than daily yet again -- by a full percentage point -- how endangered is the one part of Sunday revenue that hasn't yet been hard hit by decline, preprints? As we get into 2008, how much of the preprint revenue will shift from the Sunday paper, which represents more than 50% of many papers' ad revenues?
9) How much longer can the industry sustain 2.5-3.5% declines and maintain its claim as the last mass medium?
What's your question?
Addendum: Good, related piece by Alan Mutter (Reflections of a Newsosaur) focusing on the Sunday decline and its specific, potential impact, here. An excerpt:.
Applying the circulation decline at the 600-plus papers covered by today’s ABC report to the total universe of more than 1,400 daily newspapers published in the United States, it appears that total Sunday circulation of 51.3 million this year will roughly equal daily circulation for the first time since Sunday newspapers began outselling the daily product in 1990.
The slide in Sunday sales to the lowest point since 1975 will reverse a 17-year period during which publishers sold significantly more papers on Sunday than they did during the week, according statistics maintained by the Newspaper Association of America.