While many newspapers are still bleeding red ink financially, the latest numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulation shows verified readership is increasing at some of the biggest dailies.
The reason, perhaps somewhat ironically, is the internet, which for years has been seen as the cause of the impending demise of newspapers.
The ABC says the average daily circulation of the 618 papers it monitors went up .7 percent -- a very small gain, but significant in the face of years of circulation declines papers have been showing. The 532 Sunday papers have gone up 5 percent -- which is a significant and encouraging jump.
ABC is now including digital circulation, which on average accounted for 14 percent of total newspaper circulation. A year ago, digital comprised 8.7 percent of total circ. Digital includes not only hits directly on newspaper websites, but also viewership on tablets, smartphones and e-readers. They're not paper and ink, but the content is newspaper all the way.
The New York Times, which began its paywall about a year ago, was the biggest gainer, with a total circulation jump of 73 percent. Its 1.6 million daily circ is 807,000 digital and 779,000 print.
The Wall Street Journal remains the biggest daily circulation paper, with 2.1 million, followed by USA Today, with total digital and print circ of 1.7 million. The Times is at #3 overall.
I've been seeing reports that the paywall is starting to pay off for The Times financially, which is a good sign. The problem for newspaper publishers is still the difference in rates they can get for digital ads vs. print ads. Digital still doesn't come close, but maybe the paywall concept will eventually offset that difference and help keep papers alive.
Gannett's Journal News, serving Westchester and the northern suburbs of New York City, has just put up a paywall this week. They're trying to entice readers to subscribe for extras online that include additional reporting and analysis, photos and video. The problem with The Journal News, however, is their local news reporting leaves a lot to be desired. For many readers who recall when each town had its own local paper that really covered local happenings, the homogenized county-wide Journal News misses a lot of local news, mainly because they are seriously short-staffed. I'm not sure their "extra" coverage online will really fill the gap, but time will tell. And Gannett has deep pockets, even if they don't spend their money on newsroom employees. But they can aford to wait to see how the paywall experiemnt works out financially.