First, a few of the biggest daily papers have seen circulation jumps this past quarter, thanks mainly, it seems, to paywalls. I would have thought paywalls would discourage those who've been used to getting free access to papers online, but it looks like I'm wrong. Perhaps many who've become dependent on papers online for their news and information still want that news and they're now willing to pay for it. So some who didn't purchase a daily paper at all are now paying for one, albeit, the online edition.
Three of the five biggest dailies in the U.S. have increased their readership, mostly via new digital subscriptions. The Wall Street Journal increased its circulation by 12.3 percent, with about 30 percent of circulation now coming from digital. The New York Times swapped places with USA Today to become the nation's 2nd biggest paper, up by 17.6 percent. If my calculations are close, it looks like digital comprises about 40 percent of the Times' circulation.
The L.A. Times held onto the #4 spot, with a 6 percent circulation gain. It looks like the L.A. Times has a little more than 20 percent of its readers online. USA Today, in 3rd place, dropped by almost 8 percent, possibly due to decreases in travel in this still struggling economy. And the N.Y. Daily News dropped by 11 percent, holding onto the #5 spot but suffering from its ongoing battle with the NY Post and what seems to be an uneven editorial product.
Average readership of the 593 dailies in the U.S. slipped by .7 percent from a year ago, which isn't as drastic as year-to-year declines have been over the past several years.
Another piece of newspaper news comes out of New Orleans, where the longtime mainstay The Times-Picayune was cut to three print editions a week several months ago.
In an interesting twist, the paper last week announced plans to launch a 3-times-a-week print tabloid that will be sold only at retail and not via home delivery. The 75-cent paper, to be called TPStreet, will begin sometime this summer.
In The New York Times report about this, they say many New Orleans residents are mocking the news, claiming the publisher should have listened to readers of the Times-Picayune who said the digital experiement wouldn't succeed.
And the final piece of newspaper news is talk that the ultra-conservative industrialist billionaires the Koch brothers are looking to buy The L.A. Times and several other papers. There's talk of reporters and editors threatening to quit rather than work for the brothers, and some people are voicing concern over large daily papers possibly becoming conservative political bullhorns.
I don't see it that way, for a couple of reasons. Even the biggest and best dailies don't dominate a city's news and way of thinking the way they may have decades ago, before 24-hour cable news and all the online news sources. And look at The Wall Street Journal, which people thought would become a conservative pulpit when Rupert Murdoch bought it. Yes, the editorials are often reflective of a conservative view, but the reporting still seems to be fair and unbiased, just as The NY Times runs liberal views on its editorial and Op-Ed pages, but reports the news fairly. If Koch-owned newspapers can do the same, it's not necessarily a bad thing, since their ownership will keep more journalists employed and more papers in business.
And that's the news in the newspaper business these days.