I’ve been meaning to take a closer look at the the Seattle Times’ post-PI circulation numbers, but Crosscut’s Chuck Taylor has done much of the hard work for me.
But here’s what we know for sure: Today’s Seattle Times average weekday circulation of 263,588 is, by my calculations, 52,085 less — 16.4 percent less — than the 316,673 combined circulation of both papers a year ago.
So while the Times is touting a circulation gain of “an amazing 32.6 percent” and that “84 percent of the non-duplicated daily P-I subscribers are now Times subscribers,” the bigger picture of print newspaper circulation in Seattle is somewhere short of amazing, unless you’re talking about an amazing drop.
And I’d add to that analysis a reported 6-percent drop in circulation for the Times’ Sunday edition, revealing that the paper’s steady decline in readership (at least of the print variety) shows no signs of ebbing.
So what’s the solution? The Times’ braggadocio over its relative success in retaining P-I readers aside, it’s done nothing to address the long term problems that are eating away at its core business, and it can be fairly argued that its continued cutbacks in staff and coverage will only speed its decline. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if a morning paper, delivering yesterday’s news, isn’t as much an anachronism in the age of the Internet as the afternoon paper became during the heyday of TV evening newscasts. I’m not saying that there isn’t a rationale for a print edition, but timely delivery of actual news ain’t it.
To survive in print as a daily newspaper, the Times and other papers like it are going to have to re-imagine the medium, not simply in terms of the technology of content delivery, but in terms of the content itself. For in the end, whatever the market forces, readers are giving up their subscriptions because they just don’t find their local fish-wrappers a compelling enough product to be worth the price.
The P-I’s closure may have delayed the inevitable, but it does nothing to make it any less so.