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

Can print editions survive the decline of advertising at the Globe and elsewhere?

One of my correspondents urged me to look at the print edition of today’s Boston Globe and count up the ads. I did — and I didn’t even have to use the fingers on two hands. There were two quarter-page ads and two smaller ads in the A section and a full page of auto dealers in the sports section on page C3. And that was it. Monday’s paper was actually a little meatier, and here we are just a few shopping days before Christmas. Tuesday is generally a down day for newspaper advertising, so I expect it will pick up the rest of the week. Still, the ongoing decline is real.

The perennial question is whether the Globe will cut back on print days, as a number of daily papers have across the country. Not necessarily. The Globe charges about $1,400 a year for home delivery of the print edition, and that’s a lot of money. Maybe it’s also enough to keep seven-day print alive. After all, it would be difficult to offer just four, five or six print editions a week without also cutting the price.

At some point, I think it’s likely that most daily papers will have one big weekend print edition with digital-only the rest of the week. But when that will happen is anyone’s guess. As recently as a year ago, about 55% of the Globe’s consumer revenue came from its print edition even though digital subscriptions have long since left print circulation in the dust. Print will last as long as it continues to make sense economically.

Correction: I somehow missed the death notices and legal ads in today’s Globe. And since state law requires that legal s be published in print newspapers, that’s another reason to keep the print edition alive.

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  1. Jeffrey Good

    Even more stunning than the small number of ads is the fact that people pay $1,400/year for a print edition. I started reading newspapers as a junior high student in the 70s, built a career in them and swore I’d never stop reading the news in ink on paper. Guess what? Those kinds of prices — and I guess you need to make money where you can — have me happily reading digital editions every day and picking up the print edition (sometimes) on Sunday.

  2. Mark Laurence

    You missed a page and a half of obituaries, and half a page of legals, all of which are pretty good money-makers. But you’re definitely right, ad sales are sparse, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays but also every other day of the week. It surprises me because obviously newspaper subscribers must be a fairly wealthy group. Even though the demographic is much older than what ad buyers traditionally want, you’d think there would be interest in getting rich print readers to buy stuff. Old newspaper big advertisers like Macy’s and Quirk Auto and Best Buy are not reaching me now with any ads that I notice anywhere.
    I think the Globe and many other 7-day publishers realize that if they start dropping days, readers will get comfortable without the paper, and it will lead to a lot more cancellations. So they keep losing money on Tuesday, hoping to make it back on Friday, or Sunday. New Orleans’ Times Picayune tried printing 2 or 3 days a week, and they ended up being run out of town by the Baton Rouge Advocate, which started a 7 day New Orleans paper and eventually bought out the T-P.
    I find reading a print newspaper to be totally worth the price. Once a day, I get the entire product in an edited way, so I can instantly see what’s important, what’s interesting, and what’s just filler. On newspaper apps and websites, you get worn out from clicking through every story and constantly going down rabbit holes of distraction. I will never read and absorb a website the way I read a daily paper.

  3. Stephen R Nelson

    Believe it or not, there are 18 in today’s Metrowest News, not counting legal and classifieds. Lots of window and car ads.

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