Thursday, May 10, 2012

Buy A Falling Star

by contributor Mark Wilson

Part of a series on the troubles at The Post-Star and its parent company Lee Enterprises.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations has released paid newspaper readership figures for the six month period ending March 31. The report brings more hard news for the Glens Falls Post-Star. With average daily circulation standing at 24,578, the paper showed a loss of 1,455 paying readers since last October. Compared to a year ago, the average daily circulation is off 1,029 or roughly 4 percent. This places the Post-Star in the middle of the pack of nearby newspapers—the Albany Times Union showed a slight gain in paid readership over last year, while the Saratogian and Troy Record reported heavier losses of 5.7% and 7.5% respectively. Of the four regional papers, only the Post-Star showed deteriorating numbers in the second half of the past twelve month period.

With the latest report, the Post-Star has officially broken below the 25,000 average daily circulation level, a threshold which many organizations recognize when bestowing annual newspaper awards. With the general collapse of newspaper circulation over the past decade, the number of newspapers occupying the under 25,000 category has swelled, far surpassing occupants at higher levels.

While the Post-Star’s circulation losses are middling in comparison with neighboring papers, its performance against the rest of the newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises were considerably worse. Over the past six months, the Post-Star suffered the third highest percentage circulation losses of all fifty papers owned in whole or part by Lee. Perhaps of greater concern, against the firmament of Lee papers, the Post-Star has dropped farther than any other over the past five-and-a-half-years, dropping from the twelfth largest Lee property in October 2006, to twentieth (the ranking figures in the accompanying table take into account the various Lee properties that either merged or were sold over the years).

The Post-Star’s harrowing circulation drop might well explain why the newspaper moved so suddenly at the end of April to subscribed access for its online content: while plenty of people may be reading the Post-Star, fewer and fewer are buying it.

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