News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Max Jones

May 2, 2009

MAX JONES: Printed newspaper will be here for years to come

TERRE HAUTE — Whenever I speak to groups or individuals around the community about the state of the newspaper industry, I often get confused looks when I say that newspaper readership is growing rapidly and has never been higher.

“Why then,” I am asked, “is news about the industry so bad? All we hear about is declining circulation, layoffs, bankruptcies and closures!”

These are indeed tough times in the newspaper industry, as with almost every other industry. The global economic distress of the past year has led to a steep dip in advertising sales, the primary source of revenue for newspapers. Profits are down, and some newspapers, especially in highly competitive metropolitan areas, are having a hard time paying their bills, not to mention meeting their debt obligations to investors. Just this past week, we learned that average daily newspaper circulation had declined 7.1 percent in the past six months.

Challenges abound in this financial climate for our industry in general. Individual newspapers, on the other hand, have their own stories to tell. In many cases, as with the Tribune-Star, that story isn’t so bad. Yes, lower revenues have been met with corresponding expense reductions, including a painful reduction in our work force earlier this year. But other fundamentals of our business are holding up.

Average daily circulation at the Tribune-Star, which serves a nine-county area in west-central Indiana and east-central Illinois, remained strong the past 18 months. We’re proud of that. Our circulation was relatively stable during that period at approximately 25,000. On Sundays, that number is higher, about 28,000.

While we have experienced a slight drop in paid circulation, it’s nowhere near the national average. We recently received very good news when March 2009 circulation figures showed 114 more subscription starts than stops.

While circulation of our printed product has been steady or showing only a slight decrease, overall readership is higher than ever.

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