Thursday, November 02, 2006

Metro Population Grows, But Oregonian Loses Readers

The Portland Business Journal reports that the Oregonian’s circulation figures keep decreasing.

Circulation in one year dropped:

weekday - 310,803 (down 6.8% from 333,515 in 2005--a loss of 22,700 subscribers)
Saturday - 297,303 (down 7.8% from 320,863 in 2005--a loss of 23,500 subscribers)
Sunday - 375,757 (down 4.8% from 394,992 in 2005--a loss of 19,200 subscribers)

Even though I often take the Oregonian to task for its bias, this is bad news. Especially since the Metro area is growing in population. From 1990 to 2003, Portland’s population went up 25%. Growth in the next four years is expected to average about 1.8% a year. If population grew last year by 1.8% that means the Oregonian lost more than 6.8% of its share of readers. Weekday readership should have gone up 6,000 instead of decreasing 22,700. So, in one year readership really dropped the equivalent of 8.5%.

The Oregonian, along with all old print media, is swimming against the tide of sound bites and video coverage.

It’s also going against the tide of the internet which allows people interested in more coverage on a story to go directly to original sources or to get alternative views of what happened and what it means. AP, NYT, Reuters, LA Times, Hearst are no longer the last word. Neither is the Oregonian. In fact, its dependence on the above news services, whose stories are often published on the internet the day before the Oregonian publishes them, makes it all too often a déjà vu source. Strike one.

The Oregonian is also losing young readership who, if they are interested in political and social affairs, are more likely to find their news on the internet (most of it free), in blogs or via podcasting. Strike two.

To survive the Oregonian needs to win a majority of what is left of the serious reading audience. That audience spans the political, not to mention the social and religious, spectrum.

But, the Oregonian is also losing traditional newspaper readers. Conservative readership. Military readership. Traditional religious values readership (Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons). For these readers the question is why pay to read a source that bashes or ignores your views rather than seeking to report on what is important to you. Strike three?

I’m not sure what the answer is. Perhaps affirmative action hiring to bring the percentage of reporters with conservative or traditional values up to near the equivalent percentage of conservative and traditional value people in society at large.

Perhaps bringing in commentary from liberal and conservative, secular and traditional value sources in such a way that news stories are frequently illuminated by different perspectives. As Fox News does.

Whatever the answer, the Oregonian has not found it and continues to lose readership even as the metro population grows. Not a good prognosis for its future.


George Berryman said...

Their circulation dropped, as did the New York Times, the LA Times... yet strangely the New York Post's circulation has risen!

Heh! ;)

terrance said...

Yep. Hardly any of them are listening to readers and prospective readers.

In our immegiate family which has 6 college graduates (and 4 more in college), only the two over 80 members subscribe to the newspaper. None of the young ones read the newspaper--even occasionally.

The demographics look pretty dim for its survival.