Pew: Print newspaper circulation down 5%

Newspaper circulation continued its skid in 2010, with newspaper circulation declining another 5% for daily editions. And for the first time, advertisers spent more on online advertising than on newspaper ads, according to the Pew Research Center’s annual State of the Media report, which came out this week.

While newspaper circulation declined at half the rate of the disastrous 2009, when it fell by 10.6%, the drop was still worse than any previous year. Of the top 25 newspapers by circulation, only The Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News showed an increase. The Journal’s circulation grew 1.82%, to 2.06 million. The Dallas Morning News eeked out an increase of just 0.25%.

Where are the readers going? Many are shifting their reading habits to their mobile phones. Nearly half — 47% — report that they got at least some local news and information on a cell phone or tablet computer. This naturally has media looking for ways to charge for handset access to content, either by selling applications (aka “apps”) or charging for content provided through the handset’s browser.

The good news is that a fair number of folks indicate they’re willing to pay for content if they faced the prospect of their local media not surviving otherwise. How much? Twenty-three percent said they’d pay $5 per month to get full access online, and 18% said they’d pay $10. However, three out of four said they’d be unwilling to pay at all. A couple of other data points:

  • 28% said the loss of a local newspaper would have a major impact on their ability to keep up with local information. On the other hand, 39% said it would have no impact.
  • In local content accessed via handset, 42% access weather, 37% look for local restaurants and businesses, and 30% read local news.




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