Newspaper print editions are dying as harried news executives seek creative ways to stay alive in digital markets. Once the media powerhouse in southern Connecticut, the Connecticut Post has experienced a precipitous drop in total paid print circulation from upwards of 100,000 on Sundays 40 years ago to about 16,000 Sunday home delivery today, according to latest figures by data-driven Alliance For Audited Media that tracks newspaper viability. Those numbers reflect the combined totals of all the towns where the paper circulates.
The scarce weekday home delivery is more sobering. See numbers above.
It’s not just the Post, it’s almost everywhere. In Bridgeport, Connecticut’s largest city, The Post’s paid home circulation on Sunday is under 3,000, less on weekdays, according to the numbers by zip code. Think about it this way, Bridgeport has roughly 50,000 households. The Post’s household penetration is but an anemic few percent.
To be fair, digital has absorbed many of the old newspaper readers, but media outlets such as the Post have implemented paywalls that restrict access to content to promote paid subscriptions that come with many unknowns and trapdoors in a still-new industry. For instance, breaking news content provides all access at the Post, but feature content such as enterprise reporting, columnists, business news and some sports can only be accessed by a paid subscription under the paywall banner CTInsider.
The Post launched its paywall in the fall of 2019 so at this point only the suits at Hearst Media ownership can project if revenue from a few thousand digital subscriptions offsets the loss in readership such as impression clicks the industry sells to advertisers. Some of this depends on the strength of the content. What are people getting for their buck?
For that matter what’s the return on investment for print edition advertisers relying on diminishing household circulation?
Hearst Media has a model that could work transitionally given its hefty digital footprint, the largest in Connecticut, that runs from New Haven to Greenwich and also includes publications in Danbury, Middletown as well as Connecticut Magazine and a bunch of weeklies. Those properties include daily print publications with leaky paid circulation. News gathering is expensive, paper is pricey, printing presses require maintenance. How long will they last in that format?
An examination of the paid home delivery numbers shows a massive circulation drop in five years. In the most recent one year another 4,000 drop. In the latest fourth quarter report available (see graphic at top of article compared to one above) the drop is another 1,000-plus.
Post circulation household:
So, what Bridgeport neighborhoods subscribe to the print edition of the paper? Largely the North End and Black Rock, according to the stats above. It’s death valley on the East Side, South End and East End.
Suburban circulation is the paper’s strength, but even there it’s waning dramatically.
A regular OIB reader who asked that his name be withheld, shared his thoughts about the drop in circulation:
Lennie, there are numerous reasons for the drop off. Here are some–numerous missed deliveries, wet papers constantly, refusal to double bag and tie off so the paper gets wet, dealing with the phone people to register a complaint and listening to the false representation that a copy of the paper will be delivered by noon (that never happens) and the best of all is the note from the delivery person telling the subscriber not to complain when the paper isn’t delivered since it costs the person who is supposed to deliver the paper $2, it was suggested we call this person and if there were extras perhaps one would be delivered. Oh don’t forget we are supposed to pay for this. You know when I was a federal prosecutor I convicted people for this type of fraud.