How Bad is the News for the News?

April 2010
While nobody in Denver would say the demise of the Rocky Mountain News last year was a good thing, the head honchos at The Denver Post come pretty close. As the Post reports weekday sales were down 10.2 percent from one year ago in the wake of the closure of the Rocky, Bill Reynolds, the Post senior vice president of circulation, says in a statement that the Post is happy with the outcome (via the Denver Business Journal). "A year ago, people said we would be lucky to retain 50 percent of Rocky Mountain News subscribers," he said. "But our publisher, Dean Singleton, predicted we would keep 80 percent of those subscribers and he was right. Today, 82 percent of former Rocky subscribers get The Denver Post, and thousands of new readers have embraced our online, mobile, and social media platforms to get their news and information." Hardly sounds bad at all. But the Post's numbers are right in line with the industry at large, and the overall tone in news articles about the industry is very doom-and-gloom. The New York Times, for instance, characterizes the 9 percent decline in newspaper circulations as "deep," a "stark" reality facing publishers. Newspaper circulation has been declining for years, but it accelerated in 2007 and during the recession. While the Internet is widely blamed for the drop, lower circulation figures also appear to be calculated moves by publishers to focus on their most loyal and profitable readers, raising prices and limiting discounts, according to the Times. Meanwhile, to dust off some recent history on the downside of newspaper publishing--closing a paper--recall last year, when executives at E.W. Scripps shuttered the Rocky just weeks shy of the paper's 150th anniversary. The final days were a battle, as Maximillian Potter chronicled in "All the News that's Fit to be Killed."