The Boston Globe today reports on the latest drop in newspaper circulation, including particularly steep declines at the Globe and the Boston Herald. Why are things worse here? Robert Gavin’s article makes the case that Net-savvy Massachusetts is making the transition to the Internet even faster than the rest of the country.
Gavin could have cited numbers from the Globe’s own Web site, Boston.com. According to figures from last January — already out of date — Boston.com attracts some 4 million unique users every month, and has a million registered users. The unique-user figure is the same as the one I referenced in this post last October, but the number of registered users is up considerably. Surely there are a considerably number of people among those 1 million registered users who’ve canceled home delivery in the past year or two.
The story is similar at the Herald, where Jesse Noyes ends his report with this: “BostonHerald.com averaged over 2 million unique visitors a month, up 33 percent year-over-year, according to the most recently reported figures.”
Again, last year I noted that the Herald claimed 3 million a month for its online network, which includes BostonHerald.com, the massive Town Online site and a few advertising properties. Now Herald Interactive says that number has risen to 4 million, an increase of 33 percent — precisely on track with the 33 percent increase that the Herald claims just for its own Web site.
The Herald Web site has become considerably more attractive in the past year, as publisher Pat Purcell removed the paid-subscription barrier for columnists. Being able to get your fix of Peter Gelzinis, Margery Eagan and Howie Carr for free is a large disincentive to buying the paper. But Purcell, to his credit, knows that he has to figure out a new business model if the Herald is to survive.
By the way, the circulation numbers are pretty stomach-churning.
The Globe is down 7 percent on weekdays, from 414,000 to 386,000, and 10 percent on Sundays, from 652,000 to 587,000. It wasn’t too many years ago that the Globe guaranteed advertisers at least 500,000 on weekdays and at least 800,000 on Sundays.
The Herald is down 12 percent on weekdays, from 230,000 to 203,000, and 13 percent on Sundays, from 132,000 to 115,000.
Not good, especially given industry estimates that it takes somewhere between 10 and 100 online readers to make up for the revenue generated by one print reader. (I can’t remember where I picked that up — perhaps a Media Nation reader can enlighten us.)
The point, though, is that dropping print numbers are just part of a much larger picture.