Newspapers facing circulation, credibility woes

NEW YORK: Newspapers around the country are facing mounting challenges as the quality and quantity of circulation, as well as newspaper credibility, decline, according to several new studies.

NEW YORK: Newspapers around the country are facing mounting challenges as the quality and quantity of circulation, as well as newspaper credibility, decline, according to several new studies.

One report shows the decrease in full paid home delivery and full paid copy sales (newsstand sales) was 2.5% and 6.8%, respectively.

That report from the Prudential Equity Group compared the September 30, 2004 and September 30, 2003 Audit Bureau Of Circulation Publisher's statements for 50 of the top daily newspapers in the country.

"The writing is on the wall in terms of the struggle that newspapers face, from business to cultural relevance," said Shawn Whalen, an SVP at Schwartz Communications.

General readership is also on the decline as well, according to an annual report on the state of the news media by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The report shows that 60% of Americans now read the newspaper regularly, compared to 63% in 2002. Yet only 23% of 18-29 year olds comprise the newspaper audience, something PR professionals have already considered.

"You have to do a lot more research, a lot more segmentation, and have to understand your audience a tremendous amount more than even 10 or 15 years ago," noted Heath Shackleford, manager of PR at American Healthways.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism report also shows that newspapers have to overcome a credibility problem. Only 17% of those surveyed gave the newspaper most familiar to them a high believability rating, which ranks it lower than television.

To combat this, Lloyd Trufelman, president of Trylon Communications, said that newspapers need to remind the public of their importance.

"Newspapers are still very important for setting media agenda," Trufelman said. "[But] I don't know of a newspaper out there with a concerted effort for promoting the value of the newspaper. The credibility is there; they have to report it."

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