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Why Canít the Washington Post Keep Circulation Up?
Washingtonian ^ | 07/23/04 | HARRY JAFFE

Posted on 07/23/2004 6:47:52 PM PDT by Pikamax

Why Can’t the Washington Post Keep Circulation Up? Here’s an unsolved mystery: Why is the Washington Post losing readers while USA Today, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe are gaining them—and while the Washington region’s population is booming with college graduates?

“We can guess, we can speculate, we can estimate,” says executive editor Len Downie Jr. But the Post doesn’t know, which has its top people wringing their hands in regular meetings.

A year ago the Post’s average daily circulation was 796,367. Recent figures put it at 772,553, a drop of some 24,000 readers, or 3 percent.

“Theoretically, this is the best newspaper market in the country,” says newspaper analyst John Morton. “It’s surprising the Post is losing ground like this.”

Many newspapers are losing circulation because loyal readers are dying off and younger people are not in the habit of getting their information from daily newspapers. But those reasons don’t exactly apply to the Post.

“The Post isn’t performing as well as the industry at large,” says Morton.

Downie notes that “all papers are dropping” and reminds me that the Post still has the highest penetration of any major daily in the country. “And we came late to the circulation decline,” he says.

Perhaps, but flat and declining circulation have worried the Post’s publishing side for more than a decade. The paper has conducted secret studies, deployed reporters to suburban counties to write for zoned editions, created the Sunday Source to attract younger readers, launched a free daily for straphangers.

All to little avail so far. At its current rate of decline, the Post—currently the nation’s fifth-largest daily—could fall in a few years to ninth, below the Chicago Tribune. Among the top ten newspapers, the Post and the Tribune were the only ones that lost circulation in the last tally, according to figures reported in March by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Trib lost 1 percent and fell to 614,548.

Post publisher Boisfeuillet “Bo” Jones Jr. has said the newspaper is losing readers because of its free Web site, because of a cutback in telemarketing sales, and because readers are switching to the Express, the free weekday tabloid that the Post originally hoped would stave off competition and turn young Metro riders into Post readers.

The newsroom assessment is less generous.

“Clearly,” says a reporter who declined to have his name used, “we have failed to engage people as we should have.”

The New York Times, which has cushioned its local circulation base by positioning itself as a national daily distributed countrywide, gained a few thousand readers to hover just above 1.1 million. At the top of the heap, USA Today gained 2.3 percent to reach 2.1 million in circulation.

Meanwhile, the population of the Washington metropolitan region keeps growing. Last year it added 80,000 residents to reach 5.7 million, according to Census reports.

Downie says many of the new residents are “immigrant communities” from South America who are not English speakers. “There is not growth in the population that presents readership opportunities for us right now,” he says. But the Washington region is also attracting thousands of well-educated, English-speaking residents to work for telecommunications companies, law firms, and government contractors.

Like many other major dailies, the Post has attempted to protect its franchise by buying up suburban weeklies. Still, the Post finds itself in a two-front newspaper war: To the north and east, the Baltimore Sun is battling hard for readers in Howard County; to the south and west, the Times Community Newspaper chain, owned by the Arundel family, has the weekly franchise in Virginia’s burgeoning Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

Sources in the paper’s top echelon say both the publishing and news sides are close to obsessed by the declining circulation. In surveys, readers say they want more local news. Says Bo Jones: “We are trying to do a number of things across the paper to try to address the changing interests, habits, and nature of the Washington area.”

One thing the Post has not done is lay off reporters or editors, a tactic many major dailies have chosen. The Post’s recent buyout was the closest it has come to improving its bottom line by trimming staff.

The bottom line—and the share prices—of the Washington Post Company are in quite good shape. The flagship daily newspaper is now only a small division of the Post Company, which reaps its largest profits from other divisions, especially the Kaplan education training group.

If only Kaplan could train newspaper readers.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: circulation; liberalmedia; newspapers; topnewspapers
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To: Richard Kimball

Thanks for posting. Now note that two newspaper the New York Post and the WSJ made huge gains in circulation. Quick quiz: what didn't the article mention them?


41 posted on 07/23/2004 8:43:05 PM PDT by Tribune7
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To: Pikamax

Why can't the Post keep circulation up?

An editorial page that features Richard Cohen, E.J. Dionne, and William Raspberry.....

Regular reporters such as Dana Milbank (the VERY epitome of a Bush bashing MSM lib).....

Howard Kurtz's column critiquing the media while he also hosts a show on CNN....

Michael Wilbon the most over-rated sportswriter in the nation and master of stating the obvious in the most pedestrian terms....

BOONDOCKS on the comics page.....

But I understate!

The only things - THE ONLY THINGS! - worth reading in the Post - aka Pravda on the Potomac - are Stephen Hunter's movie reviews.


42 posted on 07/23/2004 8:43:06 PM PDT by Rummyfan
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To: Pikamax
The fools still don't get it

Oh well .. maybe they'll wake up soon .. but I doubt it

43 posted on 07/23/2004 8:47:31 PM PDT by Mo1 (50 States .... I want all 50 States come November!)
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To: Richard Kimball
Interesting to note that the Wallstreet Journal and the New York Post had HUGE gains.

It's also satisfying to note that the Arizona Republic has lost 4%. They are constantly calling me trying to give me a "free" subscription and I just laugh at them. I've told them time and time again that I wouldn't even take their liberal rag for free. Once they threw a free paper on my lawn, I called them and told them if they ever did that again I'd report them for littering.

44 posted on 07/23/2004 8:47:48 PM PDT by McGavin999 (If Kerry can't deal with the "Republican Attack Machine" how is he going to deal with Al Qaeda)
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To: Miss Marple; cyncooper

My first thought when reading the thread title, "Why Can’t the Washington Post Keep Circulation Up?".....

... was Dana Milbank. And that was prior to opening the thread.


45 posted on 07/23/2004 9:09:07 PM PDT by Tamzee (Tell me honestly, Honey... do these classified documents make me look fat?)
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To: Pikamax

They should ask me. I could tell them.

But then, in their world, things like my tag line would probably make me not worth listening to.

And there's the problem.


46 posted on 07/23/2004 9:11:07 PM PDT by GretchenM (A country is a terrible thing to waste. Vote Republican.)
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To: McGavin999
hehe I like your style.

I have a sign on my door that addresses these issues: No sales people; no witnessing from two cult organizations with churches nearby; and no solicitations from The Seattle Times, a paper whose employees harrassed me with their constant appearance. So one day the doorbell rings and this cocky young thing identifies himself as being from that very paper, had read the sign on my door, and wanted to convince me to buy the paper.

I made it clear to him in black and white that this was not acceptable sales behavior.

The gall. It just blows me away. They sell trash and then want to force you to smell it.

47 posted on 07/23/2004 9:16:54 PM PDT by GretchenM (A country is a terrible thing to waste. Vote Republican.)
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To: Pikamax

48 posted on 07/23/2004 9:20:00 PM PDT by Interesting Times (ABCNNBCBS -- yesterday's news.)
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To: Pikamax
I've only read the Post a few times - take comments with a grain of salt. First, feels like elitist talking to elitist - or it's elitist slumming. Either way, unattractive. (Kerry can't pull of the everyman bit like Edwards because he's not an "everyman" type. Same for the Post. .) Second, writer write for prizes, not readers. Third, groupthink happens when diversity is limited to the superficial.

Why Can’t the Washington Post Keep Circulation Up?

49 posted on 07/23/2004 9:34:48 PM PDT by GOPJ
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To: the Real fifi
the Real fifi said: "We get it but I hate it more every day. It is like reading a DNC handout.Slightly better than the NYT but only SLIGHTLY."

How can you sleep at night knowing that your subscription fees keep these liberals out of the unemployment line?

50 posted on 07/23/2004 10:00:14 PM PDT by William Tell
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To: GretchenM

What is really funny is they can't even GIVE their paper away. Phoenix used to have two papers, one conservative, one liberal. Then it became just one liberal paper (in a conservative state, go figure!). A few years ago it was bought out by Gannett, and it's gone steadily down since. Now people don't even want it for coupons.


51 posted on 07/23/2004 10:13:11 PM PDT by McGavin999 (If Kerry can't deal with the "Republican Attack Machine" how is he going to deal with Al Qaeda)
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To: muawiyah
"Williams worked for the Post, and the usual suspects filed sexual harrassment charges against him. The Post owns the Boston Globe, and the usual suspects accused him of sexual harrassment as well."

Wow. I did not know this. Was there any truth to the allegations? Or was it just a typical Lib smackdown on someone who was out of line?

52 posted on 07/23/2004 11:23:11 PM PDT by Oblongata
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To: Tamsey
LOL! I loathe that guy, whose sole purpose is the think of every way possible to bash the President.

I suggest everyone read Bill Sammon's Fighting Back in order to see the true weasality of Milbank.

53 posted on 07/24/2004 3:07:42 AM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: RealPiedPiper

Because it all took place within the framework of Post corporate existence no one believes any of it.


54 posted on 07/24/2004 5:50:36 AM PDT by muawiyah
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To: William Tell

Ask my husband, like LAT readers, he can't do without the sports page.


55 posted on 07/24/2004 9:02:44 AM PDT by the Real fifi
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To: Miss Marple

loathe.... Dana Milbank....

Yes, that works, the right word exactly :-)

And I'll look for the book, thank you!


56 posted on 07/24/2004 10:58:46 AM PDT by Tamzee (Tell me honestly, Honey... do these classified documents make me look fat?)
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