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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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1 posted on 07/23/2004 6:47:52 PM PDT by Pikamax
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To: Pikamax

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.


2 posted on 07/23/2004 6:52:12 PM PDT by the Real fifi
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To: Pikamax

I'm depressed to hear the Boston Globe is getting more readers. I know personally of people who have left it because of its liberal and extreme anti-Catholic bias.


3 posted on 07/23/2004 6:54:16 PM PDT by Unam Sanctam
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To: Pikamax
One thing the Post has not done is lay off reporters or editors

Hey. There's something to try. Start with Ellen Goodman and Richard Cohen.

4 posted on 07/23/2004 6:56:38 PM PDT by jwalburg (Hatriots for Kerry)
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To: Pikamax
I quit subscribing to the Washington Post several years ago because it had become consumingly offensive.

The editors and writers regularly accuse Christians of being evil, for example. They infiltrate stories about water filtration systems with paeons to abortion, and feature folks in interviews I wouldn't stop my car to avoid hitting.

Then they began sueing non-Liberal websites that C&Pd portions of their news articles.

I think the last straw was when they turned the corporate lesbian harpies loose on Richard Cohen and Juan Williams. Although they are mind-numbed, robot-like knee-jerk Liberals, they are entertaining, and sometimes actually come up with a new way of looking at things. This was unconscionable.

The Post can never recover.

5 posted on 07/23/2004 6:56:55 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: Unam Sanctam
I'm depressed to hear the Boston Globe is getting more readers. I know personally of people who have left it because of its liberal and extreme anti-Catholic bias.

.I find that odd myself, I rarely see the Globe on anybody's doorstep lately,and I'm in lefty central.

I think their advertisers could benefit from an audit of the Globe's circulation claims.

6 posted on 07/23/2004 6:59:35 PM PDT by Redcoat LI (You Can Trust Me , I'm Not Like The Others.....)
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To: Unam Sanctam

I'm a Globe reader and came very,very close to cancelling my subscription during the gay marriage period but I didn't because it has more "meat" than the Herald.

The classifieds,real estate.travel,arts,science,food and even the death notices are more thorough than the Herald.

I've been reading it for 50 years and old habits are hard to break.

Thank God for Free Republic and the alternative views I receive.


7 posted on 07/23/2004 7:00:32 PM PDT by Mears
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To: Pikamax

In DC Metro area, The Washington Times is an alternative, one of the best conservative papers around.

It's online, too

http://www.washtimes.com


8 posted on 07/23/2004 7:02:23 PM PDT by JockoManning (http://www.washtimes.com)
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To: Pikamax

Because I only buy the Post when the Washington Times is sold out- and the Washington Times is usually sold out quickly around here- even though I live in a democrat town.


9 posted on 07/23/2004 7:04:42 PM PDT by silverleaf (Fasten your seat belts- it's going to be a BUMPY ride.)
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To: Pikamax
USA Today gained 2.3 percent to reach 2.1 million in circulation.

I don't think that this is a fair comparison since most issues of USA Today seem to be give-aways at hotels. I was travelling this week and had 4 copies dropped by my door and between them I probably read at most 3 articles.

10 posted on 07/23/2004 7:05:46 PM PDT by NewHampshireDuo
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To: jwalburg
Hey. There's something to try. Start with Ellen Goodman and Richard Cohen.

Isn't Goodman based at the Globe?

foreverfree

11 posted on 07/23/2004 7:07:33 PM PDT by foreverfree
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To: Pikamax

The Post's lefty bias will only alienate half of the local readership, which, like the rest of the US, is pretty evenly split between conservatives and liberals. The difficulty is that its editorial style is nauseating. The editors appear to believe that it's appealing to write in a snarky, derisory, cutesy style. So after awhile they lose even their liberal readers. At least the NYT makes one gag on the basis of content, not style.


12 posted on 07/23/2004 7:08:03 PM PDT by Capriole (DO NOT WRITE IN THIS SPACE. FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY.)
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To: jwalburg

My nomination for the first to go: Dana Milbank.


13 posted on 07/23/2004 7:10:15 PM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: Redcoat LI
I find that odd myself, I rarely see the Globe on anybody's doorstep lately,and I'm in lefty central.

Methinks I smell another New York Newsday-type circulation scandal.

14 posted on 07/23/2004 7:11:08 PM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (Drug prohibition laws help fund terrorism.)
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To: Pikamax

I don't subscribe to the Compost...my parakeet died.


15 posted on 07/23/2004 7:12:03 PM PDT by Redleg Duke (Stir the pot...don't let anything settle to the bottom where the lawyers can feed off of it!)
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To: Pikamax
Let me see if I understand the question...

Clinton is out of office for almost four years, and the Washington Post is now wondering why they can't keep it up anymore?

-PJ

16 posted on 07/23/2004 7:12:15 PM PDT by Political Junkie Too (It's still not safe to vote Democrat.)
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To: Pikamax
Why Can’t the Washington Post Keep Circulation Up?

Relentless front page coverage of Abu Ghraib, Berger granted inside space (though the Berger stories are well written, well researched and devoid of partisan tone, so kudos on that score). But look at their upside down analysis/editorial of the two stories today. They have the two reversed in the scope they encompass.

And that's just for an example. There are many others.

17 posted on 07/23/2004 7:14:03 PM PDT by cyncooper ("We will fear no evil...And we will prevail")
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To: Miss Marple
My nomination for the first to go: Dana Milbank.

Next should be Dana Priest. Both Danas should go.

18 posted on 07/23/2004 7:15:22 PM PDT by cyncooper ("We will fear no evil...And we will prevail")
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To: Pikamax
Why Can’t the Washington Post Keep Circulation Up?

Because they SUCK. That's why.

19 posted on 07/23/2004 7:16:38 PM PDT by Dan from Michigan ("If you want a little peace, sometimes you gotta fight" - Sammy Hagar)
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To: Miss Marple

I second that.

And next--Pincus..


20 posted on 07/23/2004 7:16:55 PM PDT by the Real fifi
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