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

Paid circulation of Worcester’s daily newspaper has dropped by about 80% in 10 years

Former headquarters of the Telegram & Gazette. Photo (cc) 2011 by Daderot.

With a population just north of 200,000, Worcester is the second largest city in New England; surrounding Worcester County is home to more than four times that number of residents. Yet the 157-year-old Telegram & Gazette, the daily newspaper of record in Central Massachusetts, has lost most of its paid readership under the ownership of Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper chain.

According to Statements of Ownership that the T&G filed with the U.S. Postal Service on Oct. 1, average weekday paid circulation of the print edition stands at 8,698. The paper also reported an average of 4,133 paid electronic copies for a total paid average weekday circulation of 12,831. On Sundays, the numbers are 12,403 for print, 4,054 for electronic, and 16,457 for total paid average circulation. And as I pointed out the other day, digital circulation is reported using guidelines from the Alliance for Audited Media, which are somewhat inflated since AAN allows for some double-counting of print and digital.

Ten years ago, the T&G enjoyed paid circulation (print plus digital) of 74,000 on weekdays and 78,000 on Sundays, according to a story published just after then-new owner John Henry visited the paper’s offices, which means that circulation is down about 80% over the past decade. The aftermath of that meeting proved to be contentious, with T&G folks coming away from it believing that Henry — who acquired the paper as part of his purchase of The Boston Globe — had promised not to sell unless he could find a local buyer.

“It’s good to hear John Henry is focused on finding the right owner for the newspaper,” T&G publisher Bruce Gaultney was quoted as saying after meeting with Henry.

Henry later told me that he believed he’d promised only that he wouldn’t sell to GateHouse Media chain, which was notorious for laying off journalists and slashing coverage. Henry ended up selling to a Florida chain, which in turned handed it off to GateHouse, now Gannett. And Gannett has gutted the T&G, as it has so many of its properties.

Worcester is not a news desert. It has a number of other outlets, including the Worcester Business Journal, MassLive, the fledgling nonprofit Worcester Guardian, a GBH News bureau and several smaller outlets, including a lively aggregation service called The016. The once-mighty Telegram & Gazette, though, is barely a shadow of its former self.

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  1. Donna Halper

    Gannett has done the same thing to the Patriot-Ledger. Layoffs in the newsroom, and some of their best-known reporters have left. I’m told there are only 2 full-time reporters covering the entire South Shore. These days, I find that the Globe often has more Quincy news than the Ledger does, which is profoundly disappointing. (Disclaimer: I used to be a stringer for the Ledger, but I haven’t worked there in years.) You’re right– Worcester and Quincy are not news deserts per se, but when the big-name newspaper in town is a shadow of its former self, where are folks supposed to turn for reliable information?

  2. Kathy Kulesza

    I’m a Worcester resident and I agree that the Telegram is a shell of itself. I disagree that Worcester isn’t a news desert. How many of the sites have enough staff to cover the city and the surrounding areas? Older readers of the newspaper like my mom aren’t going to get news digitally.

    • dkennedy56

      I’m not sure that argument is as powerful today as it used to be. Someone who is 80 was in their 50s when news started moving online in a big way.

    • Chris Mudd

      As a former subscriber, I am surprised that the current subscription level is as high as it is. There is no reason beyond following obituaries to buy the paper. It carries no news and no local news in any depth

  3. Victor Edward DeRubeis

    …shocking no one who’s even remotely paying attention.

  4. Stephen R Nelson

    Dan, could you tell us where to look up a statement of ownership for any newspaper?

    • dkennedy56

      They are required to publish them in the print edition once a year, in October.

      • Stephen R Nelson

        So I checked out The Metrowest News circulation. On July 23, 2023, their paid electronic and paper circulation was 2,310 for an allegedly a wide circulation area based in Framingham. That’s down quite a bit. Electronic was only around 600, so that isn’t the answer for them.

      • Dave B

        Daily Newspapers are dinosaurs.

  5. Danny

    Daniel E Largesse
    It is a shame that there is no customer service. I have had problems with delivery, then they always try to short your subscription. Pay for 6 months only get 5. I really loved getting the paper.

  6. Dave

    Other “outlets” are of the electronic variety, a.k.a radio and (cable) TV. Do they not count in your world??

  7. Butchie B

    It’s now, unfortunately, a paid subscription to USA Today. Why do do they run Saturdays weather stats both Sunday & Monday? The new comics are pretty sad. No more editorials, plenty of full page ads. Are there still movies at theaters? Certainly can’t tell w/ the T&G.

  8. E. Rivarf

    I love holding and leisurely reading a newspaper! I grew up in Springfield, lived many years in Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, and now in Shrewsbury. Subscribed to the local major newspapers in all of them. It’s saddened me to see what has happened to the Telegram since I moved here 24 years ago. Here’s what I mean: major reduction in staff and good reporters, significant reduction in local content and editorials, increase in larger than life advertising taking up too much space, poor editing and grammar, and, because of early deadlines, stories and sports results that are two days old. Who wants to pay a thousand dollars a year for that?!!! Not me, I dropped the Telegram over a year ago until it significantly improves it’s quality and timeliness.

  9. Diane

    Everyone has problems with deliveries. How can you charge over $600.00 to the elderly for the Worcester T @G it’s wrong

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