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Numbers Tell a Sad Story for Florida Newspapers



Sometimes knowing bad news is on the way doesn't prepare you much for when it arrives.

Industry experts expected the latest circulation figures for newspapers to be awful: attrition continues from readers gravitating to online news sources (or no news sources), and the hurricanes which keep battering Florida haven't helped.

Still, it was jarring to see newspaper circulation figures for the six-month period ending in September that showed an overall daily circulation decline of 2.6 percent among the top 789 newspapers. For 621 papers analyzed on Sunday, the decline was 3.1 percent. (See numbers for the top 50 papers, daily and Sunday, here.)

(among the big papers, The New York Times saw a gain of .4 percent, or 5,133 subscribers, the Star-Ledger of Newark increased .01 percent or 50 subscribers, and USA Today only lost .5 percent, or 13,518 subscribers)

Among top newspapers in Florida, the news wasn't any better. Significant daily circulation declines ranged from 3 percent at Mother Times to 11 percent at the Orlando Sentinel. Sunday declines ranged from the times' 2.5 percent to nearly 9 percent at the Sentinel.

The total daily circulation decline for Florida's top five newspapers was 64,117 subscribers from the same period last year, including 28,654 lost at the Sentinel, 15,745 lost at the Miami Herald, and 10,497 disappeared at the St. Petersburg Times.

Sunday circulation losses in Florida totalled 73,703 households, including 32,599 at the Sentinel, 15,343 at the Herald, 14,241 at the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and 10,179 at the Times.

The newspaper with lowest changes: the Tampa Tribune, which only saw daily declines of .07 percent (1,661 subscribers) and Sunday losses of .04 percent (1,341 subscribers).

These figures come at a time when the state's population is surging -- up 1.4 million from 2000 to 2004, according to the U.S. Census.

So why aren't the state's daily newspapers connecting with more of its new residents?

Given the reader reaction to my last newspapers-in-crisis column, I'm sure some may say the performance of the editorially conservative Tampa Tribune may indicate reader reaction to liberal bias elsewhere -- specifically, at the Times. But the Tribune has also aggressively courted new residents moving into the exploding Hillsborough suburbs, so that is also a likely factor (losing less than the other guys made the Times the largest newspaper in Florida, so the Tribune's current numbers are notable).

What do you think? Can newspaper companies turn the tide of sinking circulation? And if so, how?

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:34pm]


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