31 October 2006

Houston Chronicle: fallen or swept?

A few days ago, Editor and Publisher came out with the circulation numbers for the top 25 newspapers in the U.S. Now, being the biased Yankee I am, it is my opinion that no newspapers matter other than the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. I cannot stand our local paper, the Houston Chronicle. But, I still check out all three daily.

Anyway, BlogHouston has an entry about the circulation changes. They are generally, err, less than kind to the Chronicle. One might even say that there's a special axe they reserve for grinding when it comes to the Chronicle. The stats they used and quoted were of course correct: Circulation of the Chronicle has dropped by 3.6% in the last three months. But, they did not really address it in the context of the national trend represented by the 25 papers. I was going to comment on it there, but wound up playing with the numbers in Excel and decided to do it here instead.

Here's the deal: The Chronicle's decline is in line with national trends in circulation decline, and is less than the average decline. Most papers declined between 3-4%, the Chronicle is at 3.6%. So it is not really all that out of whack relative to national trends. The question is Why are circulation rates dropping? Well, maybe it is the internet, maybe people have increasingly less time to sit with an unwieldy format, or maybe the quality of journalism is dropping and the slants of individual papers are less and less palatable to people. Maybe people are tired of the same old echoing - even if they agree with the slant.

Maybe that is the problem the Chronicle has - or maybe it is caught in a national trend. Or maybe it is both - probably. I dunno.