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ProJo still bleeding readers

November 1, 2011

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.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Tony Calise permalink
    November 1, 2011 4:40 pm

    Maybe people started leaving when the ProJo became partisan in their reporting and not just on their editorial pages.

  2. marty funke permalink
    November 1, 2011 5:27 pm

    It’s extremely painful to watch.

  3. Karen Anne permalink
    November 1, 2011 10:46 pm

    They got rid of local news coverage and good features like Moneyline, and all they have left is sparse coverage of general Rhode Island news, for which there are many free sources.

    They do occasionally do a good job of investigative reporting.

  4. tim1999 permalink
    November 2, 2011 3:00 am

    Those new ProJo commercials where they tout their journalism is literally laugh out loud funny. This once proud paper carried out an agenda driven news blackout of Providence city hall and David Cicilline for eight years. Things like that are why nobody is buying the ProJo work product in any form. It lacks legitimacy.
    Btw the ProJo has been a sad joke for quite a few years now. Scott McKay was one of their “journalists”. Need I say more??

  5. Craig permalink
    November 2, 2011 11:18 am

    The Projo needs to have better journalism, more reporters, and ethics. If that happened, along with fixing their truly terrible new website, then maybe they’d get customers back. I do hope they get their act together, so that we aren’t left with relying an the sham “news site” of Go Local Providence, which is just an embarrassment.

  6. November 2, 2011 8:42 pm

    “sic transit gloria” ,

    in the fifties and into the sixties the ProJo was considered one of the best newspapers in the country , it startwd to get too conservatie and partisan in the seventies, reporters notwithstanding, as editorials hewed to the conservative approach refeflecting the views of ownership while reporters tried to be balanced.
    It still is pretty good at inestigative reporting because of a few good reportwrs still at the paper. But broad coverage, indepth analysis and quality repoerting of everyday reality has suffered.

    The beginning of the end was the sale of the paper to Belo Corp. of Texas whereafter good reportage suffered as staff was “downsized” with retirement incentives, and printing profits became more important emanating from the success of the huge printing facility on Kinsley Avenue. The paper, especially the Sunday edition, is becoming an advertising booklet, hence earning the sobriquet as a news “pamphlet” according to one well-known radio talk show host.

    Yes the Interet age has taken its’ toll on circulation but the losses are largely the product of the Jounal/Belo’s own decisions. it is amazing the frequency of corrections, mispellings, incorrect grammar usage and other mistakes that occur regularly in the ProJo. All the result of new, low paid reporters/editors. There was a time when schooolchildren and newly arrived immigrants could learn proper English from the daily newspaper as my grandfather did in his time. Not anymore ! The paper is a skeleton of its’ former self and has only itself to blame.

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