I’m not sure if you noticed (and it’s entirely possible you haven’t), but the Austin American-Statesman has instituted a paywall on their website. Obviously the Statesman feels that their slow, steady decline just isn’t getting the job done, so they’ll move straight to assisted suicide.
The Statesman website was not my first choice for news. Or my second. Or my tenth. In fact, they probably come in slightly ahead of Pravda (though behind Russia Today, which is pretty quick at putting up relevant disaster videos). In fact, despite living in Austin for decades, I’ve never subscribed to the Statesman, and purchases of single issues has been limited to the day after national elections and UT winning a national football championship.
The Statesman was never a great newspaper in the best of times, and these are not the best of times.
It’s no secret that the Statesman has suffered severe declines in circulation (possibly even more severe than the average suffered by the print newspaper industry a whole), despite publishing in one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. But finding a single source for year by year Statesman circulation figures has proved elusive. Here’s what I found from various heterogeneous sources for daily (rather than Sunday) circulation, so they may very well not line up with “official” circulation figures (especially for the three most recent years), but are probably close enough to the ballpark to get a good idea of the decline.
So, here’s a chart for Daily Average Circulation Figures for the Austin American Statesman for 2004-2012:
(Click to embiggen. Crappy chart courtesy of a 12 year old version of Excel. I’m sure Will Franklin could do much better.)
And some of that most recent number may be even more dubious, given that sometimes the Statesman won’t actually cancel people’s subscription when asked. And try to charge people more than they agreed to for the discount subscriptions they do sell. And don’t always deliver the issues people have actually paid for.
The Statesman has been in a long, steady decline in staff as well. They bought out 71 employees in 2009, another accepted by 33 people in June of 2011, and laid off an additional 53 employees in October 2011. And even after that, more copy editing jobs were to be consolidated in Florida by Cox Media.
Cox tried to sell the paper in 2009, but backed out of the deal.
One big reason for declining newspaper circulation is the obvious and pronounced liberal bias in so much of the MSM. With so many choices for news on the Internet, local news is no longer a reason to continue funding a carrier medium for liberal opinion.
The paywall seems to be the last thing newspapers institute before they go under entirely (a few of the bigger ones excepted). Initial reactions to the move are hardly ecstatic. I don’t expect the Statesman to go straight out of business next year, but I do expect their decline in circulation to accelerate.