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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Can America Really Lose USA Today?

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I never thought that in my lifetime we would see major newspapers or magazines go under.  Recently Family Circle was the latest to get killed off after a very long run.  But I recently heard a rumor that USA Today, America’s national newspaper for nearly four decades, may fold its print edition once the impending merger of Gannett, its parent company, with New Media Investment Group, parent company to Gate House.  That would be the end of an important era and the beginning of the final chapter for newspapers.

I’m not ready for a world without newspapers – nor is the book world.  But USA Today is failing.  Badly.

It’s a thin rag these days, not inspiring enough to maintain old readers or draw new ones in. The daily paper (5 days a week) sells for $2 but it lacks meat.  It doesn’t have a lot of content because it’s lacking print ads.  It lacks ads because things are cheaper online.  Advertisers pay less for digital content and a lot of content is free online or low cost as a subscription. It’s an ugly cycle that leaves the paper decimated.

A little over a decade ago, USA Today boasted a paid circulation of 2.289 million – tops in the nation.  Now, in the latest audited circulation report, USA Today showed just 520,000 paying customers – and almost two-thirds of that came from hotels that pay a substantially reduced rate from individuals.

Some states have fewer than a thousand subscribers, such as Montana, with 266.

Many papers are cutting back on the size of editions and the frequency of publication.  For instance, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has shifted to printing only three days a week.  30 of McClatchy’s newspapers dropped a Saturday edition.  In New Orleans, two competitors, The Advocate and Advance’s Times  Picayune, merged earlier this year.

USA Today launched in 1982, breaking new ground as a national paper publishing in full color. It had lite features highlighted by a full-page weather map. But it eventually covered bigger stories in-depth and stopped losing money (it lost 200 million over the first five years).  

CEO Al Neuharth was a force behind USA Today and he helped create the Nuseum in DC.  Unfortunately the place that serves as a tribute to the newspaper is mired in debt and is closing at the end of this year.

USA Today denies it is shutting its print edition down.

Total daily newspaper circulation in America – print and digital – was 28.6 million in 2018 for weekdays sand 30.8 million on Sundays.  Those numbers declined by 8% and 9% from a year ago, according to Alliance for Audited Media Data.

Of the top 11 circulating newspapers in the country, five are in NYC and one of them is free.  Only 13 papers have a circulation of a quarter-million or more.  This is pathetic.  Here are the top papers:

1.      New York Times
2.      Wall Street Journal
3.      USA Today
4.      LI Newsday
5.      LA Times
6.      NY Post
7.      Dallas Morning News
8.      Chicago Tribune
9.      Washington Post
10.  New York Daily News
11.  AM New York
12.  Star Tribune
13.  Houston Chronicle
14.  Austin American
15.  Tampa Bay Times

It is strange to see a once-mighty medium just collapse.  I grew up where newspapers ruled, baseball was America’s pastime, network TV was king, and America still ran the automobile market.  All of that – and much more has changed.  Just as it seems to me incomprehensible to see major newspapers thin out, close and die off, it would be the equivalent of today’s Generation Z'er witnessing the fall of Apple, Google, and Facebook.  

Don’t we need USA Today?

“A man is wise only on condition of living in a world full of fools.”
--Arthur Schopenhauer

“When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words.  The riddle does not exist. If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it.”
--Ludwig Wittgenstein


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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