Patterico's Pontifications

4/30/2007

More Circulation Woes at the L.A. Times and Other Papers

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:10 pm

Via JVW comes a link to news of the latest circulation woes of American newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times.

Blame the big metro papers — again. The Audit Bureau of Circulations released the spring numbers this morning, revealing more plunges in daily and Sunday circulation.

. . . .

The Los Angeles Times lost 4.2% of its weekday circ to 815,723. Sunday was down 4.7% to 1,173,096.

This keeps happening, over and over, and many conservatives will no doubt point to these numbers as further evidence that Big Media is driving away customers with its leftist point of view.

In response, I’ll make the same point I generally make: I hate the bias of Big Media in general and the L.A. Times in particular, but I don’t think it’s that bias that is driving these numbers. Rather, it’s the transformation of how people get their news, due to the revolution of the Web.

However, the two issues are not entirely unrelated. With the Internet comes access to a tremendous diversity of information sources — many far more accurate in their specific niches than the newspapers. More and more people are taking note, and faith in the news media, I think, is cratering as quickly as the circulation numbers, as Big Media’s bias is increasingly put on display.

But correlation does not equal causation, and I still think the shift from newsprint to computer screen is more a technological phenomenon than a fundamental transformation in the basic sources that most citizens turn to for news.

I could be wrong, and trends are ever-changing. But I don’t see this as another moment for blogospheric triumphalism.

Related point: I don’t want to see The Times fail (though if it stays this way, as seems likely, it wouldn’t bother me much). I want to see it get better.

17 Responses to “More Circulation Woes at the L.A. Times and Other Papers”

  1. Someone really smart is going to figure out how to salvage the newspaper business and will become a legend in the corporate lore of publishing. What is the Indianapolis Star doing so well that their circulation is up, and why is the New York Post now selling like hotcakes? Anyone familiar with these papers and why they have been successful?

    JVW (e9fc8a)

  2. I agree the internet has changed how the news is delivered and consumed but it’s hard not to notice that some of the more conservative newspapers have increasing circulations while the circulation at more liberal newspapers have declined.

    In my state, Texas, even the Houston Chronicle has taken a more liberal bent in the past year and has declining circulation to show for it. The Dallas Morning News is down big but it’s always been eccentric. I wish I could find the circulation numbers for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I’d be interested in whether its numbers have gone up as the DMN’s numbers have declined.

    DRJ (3e5f88)

  3. It began long before the internet got rolling, Patterico. It started with ‘happy talking heads’
    on the local and network broadcasts. It has been a steady decline since the early 1970′s with the
    Faux news of the era, ABC news. Ad revenue and readership began the shift at that time.

    Liberal Media Bias?

    Shucks.

    The broadcast news contractees don’t worry about no stinkin’ gas prices, they just want to preserve their place in the status quo. In times past when journalism was starvation wages, news handlers got an empathetic look at the life of the common man and recognized how they were abused by the powers at large. They sought to level the playing field.
    Now, though they’re more concerned about maintaining their upscale lifestyle and have become part of the apparatus of oppression. They are conservative in that they want slow or no change in the landscape. Change threatens them.

    semanticleo (2f60f4)

  4. The Indianpolis Star and the St. Louis Post Dispatch posted slight circulation gains only because the Indianapolis Colts went to the Super Bowl and won it, and because the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series. Both events happened during the reporting period.

    W. Winchell (6b6fec)

  5. I want the Times to fail — bleeding tankers of red ink. It won’t get better until it things get to bad someone smashes it and rebuilds it from the ground up.

    PrestoPundit (a2369b)

  6. The NY Post circulation improved by 7%. That weakens the “new media” argument.

    geoff (8006f2)

  7. At one time the newspapers were totally biased, like in Abe Lincoln’s day when the candidates either owned papers or their surrogates owned them. There was no other way to get “news.” When radio came along there were two sources, but our auditory memories are not very good, especially when compared to our reading memories. TV News was a major blow to quick breaking stories in print but the newspapers managed to actually “clarify” the TV. Now, the web comes along with instant news and opinion, PLUS the fisking of news reports, rendering them nearly useless. So now the papers that get attention are long on gossip (about EVERYTHING) and very short on the biased reporter driven written story. So there is a future for print media; or there is a future for those who recognize that an erection is the matrix for all news stories. The LA Times is sitting in the middle of the most gossiped about area of the country with access to every juicy tid bit but because they think gossip is beneath them they refuse to “go there.” If I ran that rag I’d put gossip on page one and keep it there.

    Howard Veit (4ba8d4)

  8. “If I ran that rag I’d put gossip on page one and keep it there.”

    I hope there are other ways that newspapers can improve their circulation!

    Elizabeth (d0f46b)

  9. I wonder how many people subscribe to the LAT just out of morbid curiosity. That is, just how bad can it possibly get? Some day they will be satisfied, and perhaps there will be another drop in circulation.

    As a slightly off the subject note, I necessarily subscribe to several technical publications directed at engineers (who are generally conservative). Despite this, the editors and writers are clearly quite left of center, and are often called to task for it.

    I could cite other examples. So, the question is, what is it about publishing that attracts primarily the left?

    GaryS (4c91ed)

  10. I think newspapers will generally decline as long as people view them as
    1. biased
    2. lacking depth/breadth they can’t get elsewhere (online/tv)
    3. lacking the willingness to take on hot issues without pulling punches or ignoring flaws in the prevalent views.

    I haven’t subscribed to a newspaper for years, I can get all the liberal slanted take on news I need from the network talking heads and visiting cnn.com and usatoday.com daily (which I do). A newspaper costs me actual money to just get more of the same point of view – so what’s the point?

    If I had access to a paper that actually had a news division who saw their role to inform comprehensively rather than evangelize, I’d subscribe in a heartbeat. I don’t need to read just what I agree with, but it’d be a change of pace to read something that even gave a fair representation of anything resembling my views without tut-tutting. It grates on me that most newspapers and tv anchors present one side of the issue in sympathetic tones and imply that being object means agreeing with them. As Inigo Montoya said, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means”. Sorry – couldn’t resist a Pricess Bride quote. :)

    And I’d rather serious newspapers stayed away from gossip columns… I want serious news, I don’t care who is seeing who or who was wearing what.

    Bryan McRoberts (fb1a0d)

  11. make that Princess Bride!

    Bryan McRoberts (fb1a0d)

  12. [...] just how ailing is the Los Angeles Times, assisted (or perhaps more accurately, inspired) by Patterico, who has been monitoring it’s collapse for quite a long time and knows it’s every cough [...]

    The Anchoress » Scanning the ’sphere (22ef8f)

  13. I agree with you about the internet having an impact on the numbers, but i think part of that is people see the left slant in the paper and know they can find different online. It’s why i left the LA Times and will never go back.

    However I have considered subscribing to the NY Post which is a more right leaning paper and I see that numbers have been on the rise significantly. I think that points out the left bias is losing subscribers.

    Tom K (d3e3bf)

  14. You are too quick to dismiss the effect of the media’s left-wing bias on the loss of circulation.

    The best evidence for that is the NY Post — clearly the most conservative paper of the top 20, and whose circulation has grown dramatically in the last 10 years — from under 500,000 to over 720,000, including a 7.6% gain in the last 6 months.

    Soon, the bias factor will fade, as the other papers will soon lose pretty much the last of their Republican/right-leaning readers and will be left with only their leftist hardcore. But we are not there yet.

    Eric R. (778f4d)

  15. Gary S. asked:
    So, the question is, what is it about publishing that attracts primarily the left?

    1. It is a relatively lowly-paid industry (at least compared to doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other white-color professions).
    2. It attracts humanities majors with no discernable skills to offer, other than an interest in the written and spoken word.
    3. It allows for a veneer of pseudo-intellectualism as you discuss “important matters.”

    And regarding the question about whether certain newspapers’ political bias is contributing to their declining numbers, while I agree with Patterico that it probably does not account for all the hemmoraging, I know that I cancelled the LA Times and the Sunday NY Times because I could no longer feel good about spending my time or money on such a demented worldview.

    JVW (cd8002)

  16. Gary S. asked:
    So, the question is, what is it about publishing that attracts primarily the left?

    JVW answered fully, but I would like to add that working in publishing does not require getting in to work early. A huge attraction to leftists, imo.

    TimesDisliker (5f112e)

  17. Fewer birds want those rotten papers on the bottom of their cages

    krazy kagu (a6e311)


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