John Strum, Executive Director, Newspaper Association of America, as reported by eMarketer, said "Two years ago search engines were not viewed as much of a threat, (but) over the past year newspapers have recognized their effect."
In reporting the latest data according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, eMarketer concludes that the threat is real. Daily US newspaper circulation dropped 1.9% in the six-month period ending March 31, which was the largest decline since 1995-1996, when circulation fell nearly 2.1%. Sunday circulation declined 2.5% over the last six months, compared with the same period a year ago.
Average Weekday Circulation for Select US Newspapers
% Chg From Prior Year
Wall Street Journal
New York Times
Los Angeles Times + Sat
New York Daily News
New York Post
Houston Chronicle + Sat
San Francisco Chronicle
Source: ABC, April 2005
The rate of decline has been 0.5% to 1% since newspaper circulation peaked in the mid-1980s, but this year's drop alarms many in the business. John Morton, a newspaper industry analyst, said "I don't see any bright spots and I don't see any reasonable expectation this is going to change anytime soon."
According to the Newspaper Association of America and Scarborough Research, adult readership continues to fall (as a % of the population) except for the younger and older readers, although only 19% of the 18-34 year olds rank newspapers as their primary source for current information, says the Carnegie Corporation.
Average Weekday US Newspaper Readership (x000)
Source: Top 50 Markets, NAA, October 2004
"The future course of the news, including the basic assumptions about how we consume news and information and make decisions in a democratic society, is being altered by technology-savvy young people no longer wedded to traditional news outlets or even accessing news in traditional ways," wrote Merrill Brown, a media consultant and founding editor-in-chief of MSNBC.com, in the report.
The report concludes that youth-drain is not the whole explanation for the decline. Readers simply have access to a great many news outlets that didn't exist 20 years ago, including the online sites of the newspapers themselves.
More detail at EMarketer.
See Top 150 Newspapers with circulation.