Salem's daily newspaper, the Statesman Journal, is experiencing a big decline in print circulation: it's down 36% between June 30, 2017 and June 30, 2019, which is an annualized rate of decline of 20% for those two years.
Here's a screenshot from a searchable database of 200 newspapers that's included in a recent Boston Business Journal story, "Most Gannett papers are losing print circulation faster than average."
This shows the results of a search for Oregon newspapers.
It's interesting that while Eugene and Salem have roughly equal populations, the Eugene Register-Guard had a 2019 print circulation that was almost exactly double that of the Salem Statesman Journal. And the Eugene paper had a much lower decline in circulation, 23.9% for the two years vs. Salem's 35.7%.
I was curious to see where the Statesman Journal ranked among the 200 daily newspapers. I looked through the searchable database and found that 6 newspapers had an equal two year circulation decline of 35.7%; 62 newspapers had a larger circulation decline; and 132 newspapers had a smaller circulation decline.
So the Statesman Journal was in the bottom third, approximately. Meaning, about two-thirds of the 200 newspapers had a smaller two-year print circulation decline than the Statesman Journal.
This isn't good news for Statesman Journal subscribers who prefer to read a print newspaper rather than an online version, which includes my wife and I.
The Boston Business Journal story says:
The AAM [Alliance for Audited Media] provided data on a total of 200 daily papers owned by Gannett and New Media that filed circulation data for both [t]he quarters ending in June 2017 and June 2019 (Gannett says it now owns 260 newspapers nationwide, but not all newspapers file circulation data with AAM). The total weekday circulation at those newspapers was 2.95 million as of this past June, down from 4.34 million as of two years earlier.
That represents an 18 percent annualized rate of decline — significantly faster than the 12 percent rate of decline at daily print papers nationwide cited by Pew.
As noted above, the Statesman Journal had a 20 percent annualized rate of circulation decline, which is much greater than the nationwide figure of 12 percent.
This probably also isn't good news for Statesman Journal staff, since the story notes:
The new Gannett is now under intense pressure from shareholders to fulfill its vow to cut $300 million in expenses, and it’s likely that it’ll turn to its most underperforming newspapers to do so. Gannett did not respond to a request for comment on its circulation trends.
Of course, digital-only subscribers are off-setting some of the decline in print circulation. However, the Boston Business Journal story says:
While some regional dailies — notably the Boston Globe — have been successful in adding new online subscribers, the Gannett and New Media publications lag far behind. As of June, Gannett said that its digital-only subscribers totaled 607,000 — less than a third of its print subscribers. At GateHouse, online subscribers make up less than 20 percent of its print circulation.
It seems to me that the Statesman Journal is on its way to becoming a digital-only newspaper with a smaller staff and advertising revenues. One notable indication of this is how the Statesman Journal is charging print subscribers.
Almost exactly two years ago, on November 27, 2017, I wrote "Cancel your Statesman Journal subscription for 30 days to save $500 a year."
I've subscribed to the Statesman Journal for 40 years. Today I cancelled my subscription (for 30 days), because this will save me $510 in 2018 -- following the outrageous Monday-Sunday home delivery rate increase from $44 to $59.01 that takes effect December 1.
(What's up with that one cent?)
That's a 34% increase, which is on top of a 14% increase last March.
In June I wrote a pissed-off blog post, "Statesman Journal outrage: new subscribers charged half of what loyal subscribers pay." Now the situation is even worse. New subscribers are being charged a bit over a third of what us long-time subscribers are paying.
New subscribers are still getting the same sweet deal: $11 a month for Monday-Sunday home delivery for the first six months, then $22 a month after that.
So, after paying $11/month for six months, then paying $22/month, here's what the Statesman Journal notified me that I'd be paying as of July 1, 2019: $48.
This is uncomfortably close to the $59.01 rate that I was going to pay at the "old subscriber" rate as of December 1, 2017. Thus new subscribers are being hit with very large increases in the print home delivery rate, which likely explains a big part of the 36% decline in print circulation in the past two years.
Plus, there's been a clear decline in the quality of the Statesman Journal.
Investigative reporting is basically non-existent. The Opinion section has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. There's only one sports reporter, I believe. And the online Salem Reporter is only $100 a year, while the Statesman Journal is charging me $576 a year for home delivery of the print edition.
I hope the Statesman Journal continues as a print newspaper. But it seems increasingly likely that it won't.