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ProJo readership tanks (again)

May 1, 2012

Readership of the Providence Journal is eroding faster than a sandy South County beach in a hurricane, according to the latest circulation figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The news is even worse for the ProJo, according to data compiled by the always-alert Ted Nesi of WPRI.  Nesi reports that the Journal sold an average of 85,496 print copies on weekdays in the 6-month period between Oct. 1 and March 31, a decrease of  7 percent from the same period a year earlier.

More ominous, however, is the decline in online visitors to its web site. had 868,693 unique visitors as of March 31, down from 1.2 million on the old web site in the 6 months that ended last September 30. The paper replaced last fall with the new site that carries short news briefs and a digital version of the dead-tree paper. And the paper put up a pay wall at the end of February in an attempt to stanch the loss of  readers to the free web news.

The circulation downturns are notable because they come in the aftermath of a big multi-media advertising campaign to build the ProJo’s brand. But the paper also outsourced its circulation efforts and that doesn’t look like a smart move at this time. Maybe the paper should have invested the ad dollars into journalistic content. Or maybe the ad campaign was done poorly.

The problems with the web site are many. It is hard to navigate and is rarely updated. And, unlike other web sites, such as the Boston Globe, the ProJo is not leveraging its assets well by providing smart web content, such as blogs from its reporters, many of whom are the best at their beats in our cozy little state.

The web site is not updated frequently, compared to other news sites. (Sports does better at this than news). And the site is clunky and user-unfriendly. Compare it to the Globe’s web site.

Even the advertising-and-insert-thick Sunday Journal is hurting, according to the ABC figures. Sunday circulation is 122,279, a drop of more than 8,000 since the March 2011 data.

Figures from the e-editions are too small to bother reporting; less than 300 according to the ABC.

The circulation numbers look austere indeed if compared to the ProJo’s heyday back in the 198s and 1990s. Print circulation was 203,647 on an average weekday in 1990 and 163,122 in 2000.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2012 11:30 pm

    I am doing my part, I still pick up the paper at the store each day as home delivery is uncertain and sketchy these days. Moreover, the small stores seem to run out by early afternoon afternoon. I am told only few are dropped off, tho the large pharmacies get more papers delivered to them. The Sunday paper is ull f ada and is almost not worth the three bucks ; the NY Times is a better buy at six bucks.

    The new ProJo website is ridiculous ! The Journal has no one to blame but itself. It decimated the staff of good coverage an reportng, editorial reviews and opinions are still ok, but the daily editing must be done by high school freshman. The paper repeatedly misuses “their” and it seems nobody over there knows the difference between uses for “principle” and :”principal”. I’m no English teacher but the grammatical errors are now legion, pictures are regularly misnamed,and fact checking at times sems to be a lost art.

    Recently a fine man, of some esteem in Rhode Island, passed.away. In a “Passages” item they printed the picture, of another another man, a state representative of no relation to the deceased. The list of errors goes on. Who the hell hires these so-called “editors” or “copy” people

    All this has led to the Providence Phoenix wags who have a special affinity for the ProJo “Corrections” section as a regular entertainment item. Let’s not even get into the cost of obituary of a loved one.

    The ProJO is not even a skeleton of its’ former self, it is less.

    Rhode Island needs another daily newspaper ! The web world be damned, I think there is still someting to be said for holding the “paper” in your hand and reading. Maybe the iPad is the answer,, from news outlets who know how to satisfy the public properly–a new “paper” for a new era. ! But we stil need something in which to wrap the fish ! ..

  2. Rudi hempe permalink
    May 2, 2012 12:56 am

    For those of us out here in the hinterlands (i.e. outside metropolitan Providence which the Journal apparently feels is the only geographical area worth covering), there is nothing in the Journal anymore since they killed their state staff system. The only news they deemed worthy is police beat stuff and fires. The Journal deserves its low circulation because they are not providing a product that people can identify with in their hometowns. The Journal abandoned its readership and now the readership is abandoning them.

  3. Ron C. LOring permalink
    May 2, 2012 12:45 pm

    It is sad indeed to see this industry in decline. If this was a baseball team they certainly would have fired the manager. In the old days, my father (Paule Loring) was cartoonist for the Evening Bulletin (pro-Jo) and readers would look forward to seeing his editorial cartoons which helped to simplify and add a little humor to the news.
    The industry’s last gasp is to get on the technology bandwagon ahead of schedule.
    It needs writers with a following. a Rhode Island version of E-Bay, promotion of the excellent Sports Dept. Good Luck!

    Ron Loring

  4. Joel Jillson permalink
    May 2, 2012 1:14 pm

    Maybe if the circulation department develops some consistency with commercial delivery times readership could better rely on arrival times… would think that the deliveries would be made first to the various 24 hour stores prior to making stops at stores that only open hours later…expediency is what we all strive for but this is not New York city as there would be little waste retracing steps in the smaller cities and towns…elderly awaken early and look for their print medium prior to the commute…..

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