The Audit Bureau of Circulation released data today portraying two very different pictures of newspaper distribution in the U.S. and Canada.
In the U.S. the circulation decline was seven per cent, with all but two of the top 25 papers expressing a drop in sales.
In Canada, meanwhile, there were several bright spots in Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia.
Overall in Canada the picture was markedly better than that of the U.S., even though the Toronto-based newspapers experienced declines.
I've been reading many takes on the decision by the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News to curtail home-delivery to Thursday, Friday and Sunday, to produce single-section newsstand editions other days, and to pitch heavily the digital editions.
For some it spells the beginning of the end. For some it seems a desperate cost-cutting scheme with no central principle. And for others it's a best-of-all-necessary-evils transition that might actually earn the venerable news organizations a lengthy stretch in which to transform.
In the U.S. context, it's a very serious move, more so than it would be in Canada, because U.S. advertising revenue is tied directly to circulation (in Canada it's largely tied to readership, based on surveys, not the hard circ number). And within the industry it's controversial for that very reason: It consciously pitches revenue over the side.
Ken Doctor's Content Bridges has the deepest look into the implications of the decision (although he doesn't touch on the circ/ad revenue issue). He looks at savings, circulation revenue loss, digital editions and new revenue streams through emerging vertical products. What he concludes is that the biggest thing on the table is habit, with the most questions.