Fewer and fewer daily newspapers are lying in local driveways at 6 in the morning.
According to the latest report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Gazette's total paid print and digital circulation totaled 76,031 for the six-month period ending March 31. That's a 19 percent drop from the 93,859 figure of just three years ago, and it means the daily newspaper, in its various forms, is sold to only about 12 percent of El Paso County's population.
It goes without saying that the local daily has company in its struggles; for years, circulation rates have declined among virtually all daily newspapers. Some of the decline, the Associated Press has reported, might be related to publishers raising subscription prices to help offset declines in advertising revenue.
But according to the ABC reports, the Gazette hasn't changed its undiscounted $152 annual subscription rate since 2008, although anecdotal evidence suggests that isn't correct. Some subscribers report being hit with $200-per-year renewal charges.
Neither Gazette editor Jeff Thomas nor interim publisher Mike Burns responded to requests for comment.
Not all the "daily news" has been negative: In July, the Newspaper Association of America has reported increases, first quarter to second quarter, in unique adult visitors (2 percent) and online advertising revenue (10.6 percent) for websites of U.S. papers.
No information was available for number of visitors or ad revenue for gazette.com. Regardless, it'd be hard to put a truly positive spin on the Gazette's loss of one in five readers in the last few years. Which raises a pesky question: What's new in Freedom Communications' efforts to sell its newspapers, the Gazette included?
The Freedom website's "CEO corner" contains this message: "New post coming soon - 6/29/10." And Freedom spokesman Robert Emmers says in an e-mail, "Nothing new. The process is still ongoing."
Last month, it was widely reported that talks broke down between Freedom and MediaNews Group, the nation's second-largest newspaper company by circulation and Denver Post owner.
There's been a lot of speculation that MediaNews will wind up with the local daily, and other news from California doesn't bode well. Bay Area News Group, part of MediaNews, has announced plans to consolidate 11 newspapers in the East Bay area into two regional newspapers and lay off 8 percent of the staff, or about 120 jobs, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
A breakdown of recent Gazette circulation numbers
Six months ending March 31, 2008:
• Paid home delivery: 53,289
• Single-copy sales, hotel distribution, educational copies, employee copies: 26,553
• Paid digital subscriptions: 14,017
Six months ending March 31, 2011:
• Paid home delivery: 49,604
• Single-copy sales, hotel distribution, educational copies, employee copies: 4,851
• Paid digital subscriptions: 21,576
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations