Editor & Publisher reports that newspapers have suffered a historically large circulation drop of 2.5 percent over the past six months, but that newspaper Web sites are drawing 8 percent more traffic than last year:
This is one of the first times the NAA has released Web-site readership numbers in conjunction with the FAS-FAX analysis — which shows an industry willingness to move away from a mere paid-circulation model and embrace the idea of total audience.
The problem is, paid circulation is still considered one of the major yardsticks to measure the health of the industry. Especially in light of the fact that, as one reporter put it, many publishers are slashing staffs, closing bureaus, and reducing content.
“I would argue [the industry] is extremely healthy,” said John Kimball, the NAA’s senior vice president and CMO. “Clearly the business is concerned about declines in net paid circulation. I’m just saying the business is extremely healthy — a lot of work is being done with robust and better Web sites with the idea of a large future audience.”
The big question is whether newspapers will start charging for online content, and what kinds of content they will reserve for subscribers. Subscription walls here and there won’t mean the end of blogging – online news sources are becoming more prevalent and self-reliant everyday, wire services and television news Web sites will probably remain available as resources for online commentators, and we aren’t exactly lost without Maureen Dowd. That said, newspapers’ persistent financial woes are an indication that they might not always be there to link to, and that we need more reporters in the blogosphere.