The Wall Street Journal and USA Today see hairs to split over which is America’s leading newspaper, while online news watchers point to a 47 percent increase in e-edition readership, following the release of the semiannual ABC FAS-FAX circulation report this week.
As noted by The New York Times, The Journal takes the top spot for combined print and online circulation, with 2.1 million over USA Today’s 1.8 million, but iPads and Web versions — including combined subscriptions — make up most of the difference.
In daily print distribution, The Journal averaged 1.6 million to USA Today’s 1.8 million.
Said The Times: “Each paper claimed on Monday that the figures made it the industry leader. The Journal referred to itself in a news release as ‘the number one newspaper,’ while USA Today claimed the title ‘America’s number one choice in a daily print newspaper.’”
The New York Times weekday average of 877,000, down 6 percent from last year, came in third, followed by The Los Angeles Times, down 9 percent, and The Washington Post, down 6 percent.
The New York Times remained the largest Sunday paper, at 1.4 million, down 3 percent.
The semiannual ABC FAS-FAX reports on more than 800 daily and weekly newspapers. ABC’s website offers charts of the top 25 weekday and Sunday newspapers and the top 25 print and online audience gainers by DMA.
The latter shows something intriguing going on in several states: The top 25 online increases include three southwestern Connecticut papers, five Florida papers and three North Carolina papers.
Under the headline “At Flagging Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture,” David Carr at The New York Times offers a 4,000-word analysis, complete with unflattering anecdotes about new executives along with the more quantitative picture.
It’s an amazingly sad story — and would be sensational enough without working the phrase “show him her breasts” into the first stick of type in an anecdote attributed to “two people at the bar.”
At a time when the media industry has struggled, the debt-ridden Tribune Company has done even worse. Less than a year after Mr. Zell bought the company, it tipped into bankruptcy, listing $7.6 billion in assets against a debt of $13 billion, making it the largest bankruptcy in the history of the American media industry. More than 4,200 people have lost jobs since the purchase, while resources for the Tribune newspapers and television stations have been slashed.
A later comment:
“They threw out what Tribune had stood for, quality journalism and a real brand integrity, and in just a year, pushed it down into mud and bankruptcy,” said Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell Inc., a consulting firm. “And it’s been wallowing there for the last 20 months with no end in sight.”
Included is a hat-tip to blogger Robert Feder for spreading the word (and Facebook photos) of an executive poker party at the Tribune tower, a scene that seems to echo the “culture” described in Carr’s piece.
Within the story’s first day online, there were more than 300 reader comments attached, including some that refer to what Tribue Corp. did to The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, and other papers. (I don’t see any comments from my former colleagues at The Hartford Courant, but they have other outlets for venting — and for passing on a link to a Tribune exec’s response to Carr’s piece.)
While you’re at the Times, check out the comment “Highlights” and “Readers’ Recommendations” feature that let you browse a selection of comments, if you don’t have time to wade through the whole collection of sympathetic sighs and screeds against fat-slob capitalism.