Monday, October 1, 2007

Who Needs All Those Readers?

The NYT has an excellent point about circulation declines. Guess what? It's not just that fewer people want to read papers.

Why Big Newspapers Applaud Some Declines in Circulation

As the newspaper industry bemoans falling circulation, major papers around the country have a surprising attitude toward a lot of potential readers: Don’t bother.
Big American newspapers sell about 10 percent fewer copies today than they did in 2000.
The big American newspapers sell about 10 percent fewer copies than they did in 2000, and while the migration of readers to the Web is usually blamed for that decline, much of it has been intentional. Driven by marketing and delivery costs and pressure from advertisers, many papers have decided certain readers are not worth the expense involved in finding, serving and keeping them.

“It’s a rational business decision of newspapers focusing on quality circulation rather than quantity, shedding the subscribers who cost more and generate less revenue,” said Colby Atwood, president of Borrell Associates, a media research firm.

That rational business decision is being driven in part by advertisers, who have changed their own attitudes toward circulation.

In the boom years, “there was more willingness by advertisers to assign some value to the occasional reader, the student, the reader who doesn’t match a certain profile,” said Jason E. Klein, chief executive of the Newspaper National Network, a marketing alliance.

But advertisers have become more cost-conscious and have learned how to reach narrowly tailored audiences on the Internet. Sponsors of preprinted ads that are inserted into a newspaper have been especially aggressive in telling papers that some circulation just is not worthwhile.

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