The latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation show that the steep decline in newspaper readership continues.
Here in Arizona, the fastest-growing state in the nation, the report says that
“Daily circ at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix declined 3.7% to 382,414 while Sunday decreased 4.6% to 480,585.”
My wife and I are journalism grads and were editors of our college newspaper. One of our daughters is pursuing a journalism degree. We are newspaper people. But I am amazed at the number of business and opinion leaders in our state who tell me they don’t read the newspaper, and the statistics bear that out.
I’ve always thought a “fair and balanced” newspaper that didn’t approach every issue with a left-wing agenda would have a real shot at financial success. But given the flight to on-line news sources, I’m not sure there is any newspaper business model that can survive long-term.
As John Maynard Keynes put it, “In the long run we’re all dead.” But in the meantime, despite their flaws and despite precipitous drops in circulation, newspapers – including the Arizona Republic in this community — still largely set the public agenda and serve to record and validate the newsworthiness of events, activities and trends.
It should be kept in mind that just because people aren’t subscribing to the newspaper, doesn’t mean that people aren’t reading the newspaper. Even though we have the ability to graze from every newspaper under the sun, still I would be willing to bet that the 3-5% decline in circulation does not correlate with a 3-5% decline in readership. The reality might be that readership is increased along with influence…if you can maintain a consistently good product. So “fair and balanced” along with good-quality reporting may actually be worth more now than ever before, garnering more influence than was possible before the days of the internet.
Newspaper, welcome to the world of competition and capitalism.
I read this item with interest. I’m glad you’re concerned because I’ve seen others be jubilant about the news.
I have understood that people’s busy lives have made it increasingly difficult to include time to indulge in a “newspaper habit.” I have long loved reading the papers, and nowadays even I occasionally have trouble finding time to read them. I even understand that some people have objections rooted in philosophy or ideology. But I have a hard time understanding business leaders and opinion-makers who won’t read a paper or people who somehow think the end of newspapers would be a good thing.
If the better alternative is the blogosphere or some kind of a open-sourced community site, then media consumers are doomed to a bleak future. There’s no shortage of people who will blog on politics, celebrities and sports, but newspapers are a lot more than that. If newspapers go, who is going to report on public safety? Are we only to learn about a sewer rates discussion in our water bills? Will the PTA newsletter be sufficient coverage of our local schools? I could go on and on.
Some of this is media’s own doing. Post-Watergate, the media fell in love with scandal, and they often have crossed the line from healthy skepticism to cynicism. But some of it is the era of punditry we live in. Media can’t be in the fray at times (on opinion pages, etc.) and above it at other times. Media has become a target as surely as they often have targeted.
You have commented at times about the level of discourse today, and I also have said it many, many times in my home, as well. Remember stories about how Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill would disagree politcally then be friends in the off hours, play softball games, barbeque, etc. Nowadays, it apparently never happens. There’s real animosity (OK, that’s happened before, as in Brooks v. Sumner). And what passes for “dialogue” seems to be mostly shouting and point-scoring. I, for one, would be ever-so happy to never hear “liberal” or “conservative” hurled as an insult again. Can we ever get back to a point where we can respectfully listen to another, even if we vehemently disagree?
When it comes to the landscape of our country, I find it greatly discouraging that we don’t have civil discourse, that so many people have disengaged from public affairs, that newspapers are falling into irrelevance. And I don’t have a single thought about what the answer might be.