Community Newspapers Fare Better Than Metro Dailies

Newspapers serving smaller suburban communities are faring much better than their counterparts in big metro areas, according to the Suburban Newspapers of America, a trade organization that released second-quarter figures. The SNA had total ad revenues for community papers at $482 million in the second quarter, a relatively modest decline of 2.4% from the same period last year.

While it might seem strange to trumpet a decline as good news, the small loss for community papers looks great compared to the newspaper industry at large, where big newspaper publishers have seen revenues plummet in an alarming fashion.

In the first quarter of 2008, for example, total ad revenues fell 12.85% to $9.23 billion, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Although the NAA still hasn't released overall second-quarter figures, individual publishers are sharply down, with ad revenues at The New York Times Co. falling 10.6%, McClatchy 16.8% and Gannett 13.3%.

SNA President Nancy Lane explained community papers' continued success, explaining that they "provide much needed hyper-local news and advertising. Advertisers, especially at the community level are reaching an engaged audience that no other medium can effectively serve." Their unique local product stands in contrast to the national and international news delivered by bigger papers--content that's increasingly treated as a commodity because of the Internet.



Lane's comments echoed an earlier assessment by Dick Porter, the CEO of Publishing Group of America, which publishes a number of newspaper-distributed magazines, including American Profile and Relish. Porter observed: "If you pick up The New York Times, the front page of the Times is national and international news, and you can get a lot of it from another news source, in one form or another. But if you live in a small town and trash day moves from Tuesday to Thursday, who else is going to report that?"

Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell Inc., said in May that "small dailies and weeklies have done better, both in advertising and retaining their circulation. They're not growing greatly, but they have been up a little bit, versus the big city dailies, which have been sharply down."

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, comparing October 2006-March 2007 to the same six-month period a year earlier, the total Sunday circulation of newspapers with circulations less than 20,000 was down a modest 2.7% compared to 4.6% for newspapers overall, and an average decline of 7% at 12 leading metro dailies, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe.

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