Just the Facts, Maam, Just the Facts

Hugh Hewitt
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Posted: Jul 27, 2006 12:00 AM

What do Craig's List, Greer's OC and Townhall.com all have in common?

Each is a mortal threat to newspapers.

Craig's List ( http://www.craigslist.com ) which provides free and comprehensive classified advertising in most major cities of the US and does so for free. It is overwhelmingly the choice of young web users, an classified ad revenue for newspapers is as a result an endangered species of profit.

GreersOC ( http://www.greersoc.com ) is a micro-marketing site and newsletter pitching high end retail in the OC. (Greer's a friend of mine as is her husband, facts a lefty blogger thought it outrageous that I didn't mention when I posted about her site on my blog.) She's already sold six months of ads to the biggest names in the OC because they know hers is a high touch marketing ploy, as opposed to the low or non-existence touch rate for newspaper print ads in this era of declining circulation.

And Townhall.com is not only a one stop shopping center for news and opinion, it is now home --in its third week-- to more than 1,000 new blogs, a blog community that will grow and grow as Townhall.com penetrates further and further into the reading demographic that also wants to participate, but not according to old media's rules or who can no longer endure the MSM’s many left-wing biases.

But don't believe me. Believe the numbers.

Here, thanks to Aabria, an intern of extraordinary patience and diligence, is a circulation chart of the Los Angeles Times that compares, at six months intervals, the circulation of the paper (daily and Sunday) and the population of the region:

1970
975,491/1,308,710
982,075/1,317,220
7,041,980
1971
982,075/1,317,220
1,009,519/1,208,209
7,085,000
1972
1,009,519/1,208,209
1,026,499/1,210,556
7,065,000
1973
1,026,499/1,210,556
1,026,499/1,210,556
7,034,000
1974
1,036,911/1,226,132
1,036,911/1,226,132
7,021,000
1975
1,045,497/1,236,066
1,045,497/1,236,066
7,086,000
1976
1,037,963/1,244,713
1,037,963/1,244,713
7,160,000
1977
1,020,479/1,289,183
1,020,987/1,309,677
7,240,000
1978
1,020,987/1,309,677
1,034,329/1,332,875
7,315,000
1979
1,034,329/1,332,875
1,057,611/1,344,660
7,380,000
1980
1,057,611/1,344,660
1,057,611/1,344,660
7,477,421
1981
1,043,028/1,289,314
1,043,028/1,289,314
7,571,000
1982
1,036,522/1,290,194
1,081,050/1,340,743
7,679,000
1983
1,081,050/1,340,743
1,072,500/1,358,420
7,830,000
1984
1,072,500/1,358,420
1,064,392/1,331,666
7,962,000
1985
1,064,392/1,331,666
1,076,466/1,346,343
8,092,000
1986
1,076,466/1,346,343
1,103,656/1,368,105
8,249,000
1987
1,103,656/1,368,105
1,127,607/1,411,000
8,419,000
1988
1,127,607/1,411,000
1,136,813/1,421,711
8,556,000
1989
1,136,813/1,421,711
1,118,649/1,433,739
8,650,000
1990
1,118,649/1,433,739
1,225,189/1,514,096
8,863,160
1991
1,225,189/1,514,096
1,242,864/1,576,425
8,988,200
1992
1,242,864/1,576,425
1,164,388/1,531,527
9,115,600
1993
1,164,388/1,531,527
1,138,353/1,521,197
9,208,100
1994
1,138,353/1,521,197
1,104,651/1,502,120
9,280,600
1995
1,104,651/1,502,120
1,058,498/1,457,583
9,327,300
1996
1,058,498/1,457,583
1,021,121/1,391,076
9,369,800
1997
1,021,121/1,391,076
1,068,812/1,361,988
9,470,900
1998
1,068,812/1,361,988
1,095,007/1,385,373
9,603,300
1999
1,095,007/1,385,373
1,098,347/1,385,787
2000
1,098,347/1,385,787
1,111,785/1,384,688
9,519,330
2001
1,111,785/1,384,688
1,111,785/1,384,688
9,662,859
2002
1,006,130/1,376,932
1,006,130/1,376,932
9,828,805
2003
934,758/1,386,107
934,758/1,386,107
9,979,361
2004
961,990/1,359,593
961,990/1,359,593
10,107,451
2005
905,107/1,272,187
905,107/1,272,187
10,226,506
2006
852,000/1,213,000
852,000/1,213,000

The numbers tell us many things.

First, owning Tribune stock is not a good idea for as long as the company owns the Times but refuses to manage it.

Second, the decline of the Times predates the rise of the internet, but the internet has accelerated the descent. The Times circulation, both daily and Sunday, peaks in 1991 and begins to erode in those years before the internet delivery of news and information via online editions and blogs was even a small cloud on the horizon.

Finally, the enormous surge in population --a 50%+ increase in the 36 years covered-- even as circulation plummets and the competition fades away tells the real story of just how bad a product the paper has become.

Part of that story of decline is the relentless left wing bias of the paper, its wall-to-wall liberal columnists, its agenda journalism of which the last minute attacks on Arnold during their recall campaign are just the most memorable, and the tenured radicals of the newsroom waging war on any attempt to bring modernity to the news gathering process or business principles to the marketing of papers.

Can any business in this steep a downward spiral be saved?

The answer is, of course, yes. But not with the same team that brought it to the brink of newspaper death and public irrelevance.

Oh, one more note. We haven't seen the latest circulation figures --the numbers that will include the public's disgust with the paper's publication of details of the Swift program, a leak that conceivably --to borrow from Times' Washington Bureau chief Doyle McManus' concession that such a result was "conceivable"-- helped terrorists elude capture.

Just a guess, but I don't think that brilliant move helped sell a lot of papers even as it failed to impress even large slices of the MSM as necessary or wise.