ProJo still bleeding readers
Thanks to Ted Nesi, the eagle-eyed WPRI reporter and blogger: Nesi reports that the ProJo is still bleeding readers. The newspaper’s print circulation dropped 7 percent during the 6 months ended Sept. 30th.
The Journal sells only about 90,000 copies on the average weekday. And Sunday readership has declined too. The Projo’s Sunday circulation is down to 129,024, a decline of 8,315 since 2010.
Newspaper circulation is crucial because advertising rates are linked to circulation, particularly the inserts that bulge from the Sunday newspaper. Lower circulation means lower payments for inserts and fewer advertisements, the lifeblood of newspaper revenue.
As recently as 1990, the ProJo’s daily circulation was over 200,000 and the Sunday edition was well over that figure. The newspaper’s circulation has plummeted by 45 percent over the last 11 years, reports Nesi.
As is the case with newspapers all around the country, the dead-tree editions of the Journal are not as popular as they once were. One ominous problem for the ProJo is that the online eyeballs are down too, from 1.4 million unique visitors as of March 31 to 1.2 million as of Sept. 30. It remains to be seen whether the paper’s recently improved web site can stanch the bleeding.
While the new web site has been hailed by management, some users have found it poorly designed and confusing. The paper plans to put up a pay wall soon to squeeze more revenue out of its non-print products. Most other newspapers are trying similar strategies. No business school teaches that giving away your product for free is a sane business plan, and the ProJo and other mainstream media need revenue to support quality journalism. It is no surprise that the decline in the ProJo’s circulation and advertising has been accompanied by a drop in the breadth and quality of coverage . The ProJo once covered Rhode Island like the dew on a June morning or the snow after a winter nor’easter. Now, not so much. The section that has held its own the best is sports, where new reporters have been hired as talented people have left. And after doing a dismal job covering hockey last year as the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup (The ProJo didn’t have one journalist at the 7th game of the Cup finals; the Boston Globe had 13; and even worse, the paper last year did not cover Providence Bruins games at the Dunk, a short walk from the newsroom) it appears the paper has awakened and assigned the talented and hockey-knowledgeable Mark Divver to the beat. Divver is doing a fine job with both college and pro hockey.