Tuesday, October 28, 2008, 12:14 PM

Newspapers decline, but don't cancel your subscription just yet

Nationwide newspaper circulation dropped a sharp 4.6% for the six months ending in September. This is the latest drop in a long and troublesome trend for newspapers as consumers migrate to electronic media (web, television, radio) for their news. Among the declines, The Atlanta Journal Constitution dropped 13.6%, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland dropped 7.8%, and The (Baltimore) Sun dropped 5.9%.

Conventional wisdom is that organizations must turn away from newspapers and embrace blogging, tweeting, plurking and other forms of new media. There is a considerable amount of truth to this. However, consider three caveats:

First, smaller market newspapers are increasing in circulation. For instance, circulation is up for The Wisconsin State Journal, The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens, Mich., Florida's The Daily Sun of The Villages, The Times of Trenton, and The Citizen Tribune of Tennessee. Many consumers are dropping large, daily newspapers in exchange for smaller publications whose community-based coverage is more relevant to their daily lives.

Second, much of the news you see on TV and the web and hear on radio originated in your newspaper. As we have said before, walk in to your local radio or television station in the morning and you will see reporters and producers hunched over the local paper deciding what to cover that day.

Third, large segments of our population still rely on newspapers. Click here for a breakdown of where consumers go for their news, based on age, income, and other factors. Then ask yourself: where does my target audience get its news?

Let's be clear: the consumer migration from newspapers to new media sources is irreversible. Organizations must learn how to communicate with an increasingly wired audience. However, a smart organization also appreciates where its target audience gets its news today. Wherever your audience goes, so must your communications plan - even if it leads to the local paper.

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