By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Readership exodus

Not that we didn’t all know this, but check out the latest from the General Social Survey, reported in today’s New York Times.

In the accompanying slide show, you’ll see that only two measurements have changed drastically since the early 1970s: attitudes toward women in politics (for the better) and daily newspaper readership (for the worse).

The percentage of Americans who say they read a newspaper every day has dropped from nearly 70 percent to just over 30 percent.

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  1. Gramps

    Sad to say, but this may be much more an indicator of the decline in American society than the newspaper business.One reason so many elderly enjoy cohabitation to the exclusion of others is that it saddens them to find that young folk cannot make change for a dollar.

  2. Don

    Did they ask, “How many of you CAN read a newspaper?”

  3. O-FISH-L

    My apologies for not watching the slide show, but I’m curious whether the survey showed anything about party registration of newspaper staffers then vs. now and party registration of newspaper readers then vs. now?Speaking strictly for myself, with some knowledge of what my like-minded family and friends are doing, why would any conservative pick up the NYT, Globe etc. knowing that for the most part these entities employ few if any conservatives in significant roles while regularly reporting from a left of center slant?I cancelled by Globe subscription after the Times revealed the Terrorist Surveilance program, believing that my subscription fees were akin to a donation to the DNC, if not al-Qaeda. Say what you will about my views, but with the country almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats in the last two Presidential elections, the media is regularly alienating half of its potential readership / viewership. Sure, Rather and Mapes were caught red-handed and paid the ultimate price, but most of the bias is in softer, yet constant forms. Just in the past couple of weeks, we have the “courageous” 5-Grammy Award winning Dixie Chicks being celebrated in many mediums for lead singer Natalie Maines bashing of President Bush’s Iraq policy, while great care was taken to avoid asking Maines how her marriage to an Iranian-American has helped shape her views on the Middle East. Meanwhile, only days after the shocking, hateful anti-Christian comments of two bloggers employed by Dem. Presidential candidate John Edwards, Today Show co-host Meredith Viera interviewed Edwards but totally ignored the scandal.Stop the head-scratching over the drop-off in newspaper readership. If Coca-Cola came out with a pro Dixie Chick bottle or anti-Christian can, wouldn’t their sales dropp off too? D’oh.

  4. Rick in Duxbury

    O-Fish, don’t confuse the coasts with the rest of America. Only in Boston, (and a few other spots), could you sell a product, insult half the customers and then be surprised when encountering sales resistance. The problem will solve itself soon enough, when some people realize their ability to make a living doing what they love is not a God-given right. Ask any starving musician or actor.

  5. Stella

    Let us not overlook that, back 12 years or so, the idea of digital delivery to hand held devices and PCs was the ultimate dream of many newspaper companies. Sheets were soiled as the vision of yet unrealized profits danced in heads. Save trees, reduce distribution costs, etc. The idea still has merit.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Fish and Rick: As I have pointed out on several previous occasions, the Globe has probably lost very few readers over the years if you consider that it gets about 130,000 Web readers per day. Folks can argue all they like about whether the paper isn’t as good as it used to be, or is too liberal for its audience. The plain fact is that the numbers show a shift from print to online, not an overall decline.

  7. Mike from Norwell

    Yes Dan, but what sort of denero is being generated by to make up for the loss of subscription revenue?One thing I’m trying to figure out (and may tilt in the direction of saying see ya to the Globe delivery) is the incredible premium being paid to get your paper delivered. For a long time I had gone to Saturday and Sunday delivery only since weekday delivery was unreliable (us folks on the South Shore have to leave early) and got tired of paying for two newspapers. However, when I look at the bill I’m basically being charged a premium of $1.10 a week over the face cost of to have a newspaper thrown at the end of my driveway. Weekly delivery standard rate premium is now at $2.25 a week (and even then they still want you to add extra to “tip” the delivery guy). How many magazines charge a higher price for a subscription than newstand price? I guess us poor saps still subscribing are keeping the Globe afloat as they trend to the business model of the kid trying to sell that one glass of lemonade @ $100!

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: I’ve estimates that one print reader is worth as much in terms of revenue as 10 or even 100 Web readers. Obviously that’s the biggest problem facing newspapers.

  9. Anonymous

    As I have pointed out on several previous occasions, the Globe has probably lost very few readers over the years if you consider that it gets about 130,000 Web readers per day.Dan, are there any statistics as to which parts of the readers are clicking to? If they’re mainly clicking to the AE portion, not good from a civic standpoint. Better if they were to go to the News portion.As far as the Globe is concerned, anything necessary to earn a buck, and that’s true. But I’d be interested from a sociological standpoint.

  10. Mike from Norwell

    Dan, I’d really like your opinion on the pricing issue. The more I think of this, the curiouser I get. Presumably all of the convenience stores aren’t selling the Globe as a public service; they must be getting some margin, however little, on each paper. I remember as a kid delivering the South Middlesex Daily News and the Globe afternoon edition, and don’t recall that it cost more for delivery than to pick up at the local store or vending box. Margins on the Globe delivery have increased over the years, while the face value of the paper has remained unchanged. This isn’t helping their cause either…At some point price sensitivity (or the ability to use a simple calculator) will force more and more Globe readers from switching from a subscription (which I’m assuming is the holy grail of stats) to picking up the paper at the local convenience store et al. Any thoughts here? Forget issues of red/blue, Dem/GOP – are they trying too hard to make up losses on the backs of subscribers?

  11. Wes

    Subscription numbers are heavily weighted when it comes to ad prices. Each daily sold returns 3 Cents to the fortunate and flush vendor.

  12. Anonymous

    I know a former newspaper vendor and he also said 3 cents per daily (Globe and Herald), 8 to 11 cents for a Sunday paper, depending on the paper. I (and my mother) always go to a store for various papers, because delivery is so unrealiable (another problem).

  13. Mike from Norwell

    Didn’t figure that the vendor was making a huge killing on the papers, more the other items bought as force of habit. However, look again at the numbers. For that same Sunday paper I can buy (and probably get a later edition here on the South Shore) for $2.50, my effective cost with home delivery is $3.50 plus tip. Time to make that call to the Globe once and for all.BTW, don’t think many of us would cotton to this type of pricing for magazine subscriptions…

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