On a day when the Baltimore Sun reported, “The Baltimore Sun has cut its newsroom staff by nearly a third in a reorganization the company said would help it not just survive but succeed in one of the worst economic downturns in decades”, the Austin American-Statesman has good news for a change.
True, the Statesman has made many staff cuts and buyouts, but the relative health of Austin’s only daily newspaper remains good. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), The Statesman’s overall audience is up 5.97-percent from this time last year. That audience includes subscriptions and online readers.
When compared in 72 U.S. markets with 124 newspapers, the Statesman online is number-one in terms of percentage of local adults reached according to a recent survey, by Scarborough Research and provided by the American-Statesman. The survey results are 12-month averages.
“More than 850,000 will read one of our printed publications or visit one of our web sites in a typical week,” said Harry Davis, vice president for circulation. “That is two out of three local adults and far more than any other local media. We ranked 14th among all [Top 25] newspapers this ABC publishers statement in total readership (print and online).” At the same time, circulation for both the weekday and Sunday editions fell 10.3 percent, according to the Statesman. So, the growth clearly was in the online audience.
“More than 420,000 local adults visit our web sites in a month. In 2008, total page views grew 12% over the previous year. Statesman.com is one of the most-popular local newspaper websites in the U.S., second only to washingtonpost.com.,” Davis said. “The Statesman is the area’s leading source of news, information and advertising, reaching over 400,000 readers each weekday and more than 513,000 readers each Sunday.”
In the same ABC report, other Texas newspapers did not fare so well. The embattled Fort Worth Star-Telegram, now sharing some resources with the Dallas Morning News lost 7.09 percent of its total audience, although it still reaches more than 1.2-million readers. The Houston Chronicle also lost ground, down 6.13 percent, but its total audience is still 2.5-million plus.
There have been whispers that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram may be folded into the Dallas Morning-News. Also, Austinites are aware the Austin American-Statesman’s parent company, Cox Newspapers has been looking for a buyer for the local newspaper for the past several months. Considering the state of the Statesman, it is not going to be a steal.
“The folks at Cox corporate headquarters are determined to keep a tight lid on information about the sale process, and so far they've done a good job. Beyond the fact that the process is continuing, all I know is that Cox has said repeatedly that it will not sell at a fire-sale price,” said Fred Zipp, American-Statesman editor. At last word, negotiations were continuing with several suitors.
These local statistics are a major chord in an overall symphony in a minor key. Newspapers nationwide, like the Baltimore Sun are retooling for a new age of multiplatform journalism. That includes the American-Statesman and probably says something about its relative success. Of the top 25 dailies in the country, only the nation’s number two newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, increased circulation. The growth? Less than one percent. The Wall Street Journal, by the way, is delivered locally by the Austin American-Statesman.
Where is my LP of Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They are A Changing”? I’d best play it while my turntable still works.
© Jim McNabb, 2009