Globe, Herald circulation continues to slide

The Boston Globe is the 25th-largest Monday-through-Friday paper and the 20th-largest Sunday paper, according to the latest figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Both the Globe and the Boston Herald continue to slide. And the Wall Street Journal enjoys the largest Monday-through-Friday circulation nationally, while the New York Times is tops on Sunday.

Locally, the most interesting news is that the Globe’s circulation has stabilized following a huge plunge between 2009 and 2010, which followed significant price increases. Those increases have reportedly improved the paper’s bottom line, but have left the Globe with a much smaller subscriber base.

The Globe’s paid Sunday circulation for the six-month period ending on March 31, 2011, was 356,652, down 22,297, or 5.9 percent, over the six-month period ending on March 31, 2010. The Monday-through-Friday picture was similar: 219,214 in the most recent reporting period, down 13,218, or 5.7 percent.

By contrast, the Globe’s circulation figures for the six months ending on March 31, 2009, were 466,661 on Sunday and 302,638 Monday through Friday, meaning that Sunday circulation last year was down 18.8 percent over the previous year, and Monday-through-Friday circulation was down 23.2 percent.

Over at One Herald Square, circulation during the past year dropped at roughly the same rate as the Globe’s. On Sunday, circulation is 87,296, a decline of 4.1 percent. The Monday-through-Friday editions averaged 123,811, down 6.6 percent. Two years ago, paid circulation at the Herald stood at 95,392 on Sunday and 150,688 Monday through Friday.

Both the Globe’s and the Herald’s circulation figures include exceedingly modest numbers for their paid electronic editions, which were folded into their total paid circulation.

Finally, the Globe reported 6.8 million “total uniques” for its website, Boston.com, whereas the Herald did not report. According to Compete.com, which counts unique visitors per month differently, Boston.com over time has attracted an audience about two to three times larger than that of BostonHerald.com.

The next big story will be what happens when the Globe begins charging for online access to most Globe content later this year. Will it slow or even reverse the decline of the print edition? Will paid electronic editions such as GlobeReader and forthcoming apps for the iPad and iPhone get a boost? How badly will the paywall hurt Web traffic? Stay tuned.

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8 thoughts on “Globe, Herald circulation continues to slide

  1. Ted McEnroe

    Yikes – not sure I would say losing nearly 6 percent of your subscription base is ‘stabilizing,’ although it is a relative improvement.

    What the paywall will do will be very interesting to watch. Do you think it will slow the decline?

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  4. Christian Avard

    Dan, I agree with your thesis that declining circulation stems from a lack of participation in local issues (a la “Bowling Alone”). I think that’s what you’ve said before. Am I right? How does this theory explain the Boston Globe’s declining circulation/visitors/readers? Does it apply to this situation?

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Christian: I don’t know that it applies — I think big regional metros like the Globe are the most endangered of all newspaper species because they’re not big enough to compete on national and world news, but they’re not local enough to cover town and neighborhood news (although the Globe is trying with its Your Town sites). I don’t see how the Globe can be as effective in fostering a local conversation as a smaller news organization would.

      At the same time, let’s not forget that paid circulation is just one of the measures. The Globe is reaching a lot of people online.

  5. I would expect the Herald and other Boston-area media outlets will see a boost in online traffic once the Globe paywall goes up. CentralMassNews.com had a big boost from the T&G’s paywall and we’ve managed to keep the audience.

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