Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Digital Future -- Goin' Mobile!

NEW YORK The Audit Bureau of Circulations released its fall numbers for most of the country's newspapers on Oct. 26, and the figures for the six months ending September 2009 were as harrowing as they have been for several years — proving again that fewer people are buying the print edition. To cite just one example, USA Today's circ fell 17%. But other stories loom behind that data: Publishers continue to pull back on unprofitable circulation, have redoubled their efforts to net quality subscribers, and, perhaps most interestingly, have started to raise cover prices that are so far sticking (see Mark Fitzgerald's feature, here). Plus, the number of people dropping their subscriptions, or "churn," has fallen dramatically. The Newspaper Association of America reported in its 2009 Facts, Figures and Logic study that industrywide subscriber turnover declined to 31.8% in 2008, compared to 54.5% in 2000.

As 2009 draws to a close, some are accepting that the future of print involves a smaller, more stable group of readers. The print edition will no longer have the reach it once did, but newspapers have a growing number of channels through which they can distribute content that should be accurately counted — or weighed more heavily, if they're already counted. These don't just include newspaper Web sites or Spanish-language and commuter editions, but any channel that readers might use, including Smartphones and e-readers. The latter are poised for growth in 2010, and should be considered in readership and circulation figures.

In a recent survey conducted by ABC, the organization found that more than 80% of those publishing executives polled (from the ranks of newspapers, magazines and business publications) believe people will rely more heavily on mobile devices as a primary information source in the next three years. Close to 70% of those respondents agreed that mobile is receiving more attention at their publication this year than last.

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