Duluth News Tribune paid circulation dropped nearly 16 percent in past year

DNTCircStats2009cf

The Duluth News Tribune is seeing its readers migrate to the Internet faster than ever before. Paid distribution of its Monday through Saturday print editions dropped 15.8 percent from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009.

DNTSunCirc2009b

The Sunday edition saw a 13 percent drop during the same period.

Source: Duluth News Tribune Statements of Ownership, Management and Circulation

60 Comments

Drifter

about 11 years ago

When I moved to Duluth, the paper had four sections every day, including syndicated columnists in the op ed page. Now it is two sections, the actual "news" content is scattered throughout with no predictable pattern, and the only syndicated columnist is Garrison Keillor.

I've been a newspaper reader for decades, but I don't think I will be for long.  The reason isn't that the content on the internet is free and the paper costs money.  It is because the content isn't in the paper, and it is on the web.

Oh, and the DNT also got rid of Gil Thorp, despite the fact that he gave a personal shout out to Duluth on two occasions.  (The Milford Mudlarks played both the Hilltoppers and the Denfeld Hunters.)

Calk

about 11 years ago

I am so so surprised to see this drop in the DNT's print circulation! How can this be?

farglebargle

about 11 years ago

If you want the DNT to improve, don't cancel your subscription. We'd all gripe about it no matter how good or bad it is. But a local rag on your doorstep every day is better than none.

mevdev

about 11 years ago

How many of their pageviews are that damn login screen? That is what I want to know. I'll bet it is a large percentage.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

I liked the local references in Gil Thorp, but that comic should have been cut in 1958, which was the year it started.

markm

about 11 years ago

I've tried to subscribe 3 times in the last 4 years and everytime, my bill gets so screwed up that I get frustrated and cancel.  I'll start gettign a bill each month and when I call I hear something like "Well that person you talked to didn't do it right let me fix it and get the paper coming again"  that works for a month or 2 and then a bill starts coming, make a phone call and I'm back in the cycle again.

udarnik

about 11 years ago

Mevdev -- not only that, but how about the extra screen you get when you try to click on a blog from the homepage?  Why does one have to click through twice?  ARGH.

@ndy

about 11 years ago

"a local rag on your doorstep every day is better than none."

Really? What if the content is so scarce and/or awful as to make a national paper such as the WSJ or NYT far more attractive. What is so great about a 'local' paper that is owned by a corporation, managed from North Dakota, carries an embarrassingly small proportion of local content and sees fit to lay off much of its workforce then run newswire stories instead of paying reporters? How long are people expected to pay for a terrible newspaper before they throw in the towel and accept that regardless of how much they simultaneously complain AND support the DNT, it is not going to improve?

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

Farglebargle and Andy are trying to make different points, but the truth is in the middle. It's tough to vote with your subscription if you don't like changes at the News Tribune, because there still isn't any better journalism going on in town. (That's not to say other media outlets don't do great stories -- they do. But on a day-to-day basis, we'd all be a lot less informed about local issues without the DNT.)

Barrett

about 11 years ago

I actually greatly prefer the print version over the online version, simply because the print version doesn't contain reader comments.

edgeways

about 11 years ago

1. cut the wire service, 
2. do only local and regional stories, except for perhaps the monumental national / international breaks
3. Get rid of the color (unneeded)
4. Drop the price back to .50
5. Sharply curtail editorials

I'll admit I have always grumbled about the paper, but at least in the past I would actually purchase a copy once a week or so and managed to wring a few good things out of it. Nowadays I wouldn't look at or think about the paper if it wasn't at the office and I never purchase a copy. It's kind of like being handled a shit sandwich and told it's the only thing on the menu... but at least there's some miracle whip on it!

I suspect the editorial drift to the political Right of Center has also hurt it some. It puzzled me a bit why a paper in the midst of DFL central endorsed and promoted both McCain and Coleman so heavy last year, and a number of Republican issues this year. I'm not saying it was "wrong" of them, but that it seemed a big mismatch for the area and makes me immediately suspect any endorsement it might make.

vicarious

about 11 years ago

True, Barrett. But one does not have to read the comments. 

When I do occasionally (read the comments), I try to imagine the commenters all dressed in Big Bird suits.

mevdev

about 11 years ago

I picked up a star trib, a nytimes and a DNT this last weekend. Their heavily religious and backwards opinion section made me write a letter to the editor. Anti-Obama letters that were completely baseless and a reverend writing in how gays are gay they are just sinners. I hope that is their audience they are pandering to, because that pisses me right off.

Barret is right, user comments have no right being there. If they were warranted they should be in the print version.

Edgeways also has a point. You can't beat these larger papers on world & US content. We get it everywhere. I don't have a tv, yet I hear about this stuff immediately. There is definitely stuff going on in town and more than just at SMDC, Cirrus and the mines.

mevdev

about 11 years ago

Sorry, bad spelling errors in my last post. I apologize.

DNT is not a tv station, it is not a world newspaper and it is not a blog. They just need to realize that and they will have a great newspaper again. Spread too thin.

Barrett

about 11 years ago

Read DNT publisher Ken Browall's response to this post here. He explains the decline as "a conscious decision to discontinue delivery in some of the outlying areas."

"Readership is the measure that our advertisers use to see if it's a valuable proposition to advertise with us," Browall said. "You really have to look at the two. That is really significant and growing."

Pat

about 11 years ago

The funny thing in Browall's response is that he says readership is growing, but where are the numbers backing that statement? The graph started in 2004. But the move to limit circulation didn't start until 2007 or 2008.

udarnik

about 11 years ago

And of course, turning "rising readership" into "rising revenue," or even "not falling anymore revenue," is still a challenge, to say the least.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

"Readership" refers to everyone that reads the content. So it's not just adding the subscribers to the Web site's unique visitors. 

For example, if the News Tribune has a total print distribution of 37,773 (32,642 paid) there are many more people who read it. The average household probably has two people reading the same paper, and the average office has even more. So if you throw on top of that the unique visitors to the Web site each day, I don't think it's a stretch to say the daily readership of the Duluth News Tribune is in the ballpark of 100,000.

It's true, readership can grow while print distribution drops. But I don't think it's accurate to say that readership is the best way for advertisers to make a decision. Beyond the more complicated aspects, like matching the demographics of the readers to their product or service, they will want to measure print and online stats separately. If the advertiser just wants to buy a print ad, the online stats are irrelevant, and vice versa.

Roger

about 11 years ago

Their web implementation isn't so great either. Mandatory login is an excellent point (and especially irritating when trying to look at a story on a phone.) Has anyone else noticed that you can't subscribe to RSS feeds of their "areavoices" blogs?

udarnik

about 11 years ago

IIRC, the generally accepted formula was a little more than 2 readers per copy.

Mac

about 11 years ago

I don't see why everyone is complaining so much about logging in.  I use Firefox and Safari, login once and don't have to do so for days after the fact.  My computer remembers my login and it's just a matter of a few extra clicks.  If that is too much labor for you to handle then I feel sorry for you.

Sjixxxy

about 11 years ago

I still stand by my belief that the downfall is caused by the continual printing of the Family Circus as an oval.

Rob

about 11 years ago

The changes contemplated in the above comments are interesting to read. Forum grossly over paid for the paper.  They cut staff to make their numbers work.  Forum has a history of promoting the wrong people.  They're in a tough spot because they have get a return on all that money.  Making changes to make the paper better isn't the same as making changes to make a profit.  Now would be a great time to compete in a meaningful way against them - using edgeways ideas for the print edition and having a co-op of writers like Paul and some of the talent currently employed by the DNT (as an example) filling the pages/web with content.  How hard would it be?  I see the DNT has disputed the circulation claims.  I'd like to see the ad revenue numbers.  Declining circ and declining ad rev.  It's a 1 - 2 punch.  Add a little page rate competition  and you've got a serious problem on your hands.  (bye bye print monopoly)

Mac

about 11 years ago

Bye bye print monopoly?  There is nothing in the region that remotely compares to them in the print category outside the two Twin Cities papers and those are hardly sources for local news.  As long as the DNT is in business, they will own the print world in Duluth.  Living Stones and Zenith and other small niche papers like those will never compete on the same level and they weren't created to do so.

mevdev

about 11 years ago

Rob, great ideas there. I would really love to see a weekly section that is just history. Chuck Frederick has done some great things. The poverty part series was well done and focused every though every letter to the editor still said all our crime was because of black people from Detroit. Why not do a similar thing on manufacturing in this area. Airplanes aren't the only things manufactured here (paper, metal fabs, plastics, trade pubs, printing, etc). Produce a nice directory at the end for in-US outsourcing (out of us outsource is called off-shoring for those that care). Or perhaps not just interview rock bands, but have reviews of shows (which is incredibly rare in the DNT). There is so much potential.



The DNT should convert their little tiny TV thing to a morning show. Have it taped the night before, have a house band, a real host that doesn't sound like he's calling it in. Have local guests, musical acts, local stories, product reviews, scenes from local plays, etc.

Rob

about 11 years ago

Mac- You should reread what I said - I'm suggesting competing against them.  If you compete against them, like the MMM empire once did before they sold , then the DNT would lose the monopoly.  When MMM was going head to head with the DNT (pre-Forum), page rates, or the ad revenue (whatever the industry term is) fell.  Forcing the revenue down as a result of competition would put a serious hurt on a seriously hurting paper.

Tim K

about 11 years ago

I know you are expecting more from, but for now I can only muster a "meh."

ShaneB

about 11 years ago

Ha! Looking back, I can't believe my rant on Sjixxxy's Family Circus post - really defending the DNT there. I still have lots of friends at the DNT and know there are some great people within those walls, but have since thrown in the towel as well. Actually, since my subscription is still active and I do still look at the paper, I guess it's more like the towel has been thrown, but got caught on the top rope and is now hanging there, ready to fall.

It was the Hell's Angels overblown coverage that did it for me. Especially the Angels vs. Outlaws letter ("please, please, we're begging you not to clash in violence" in so many words).

Sam Cook is by far the DNT's greatest asset. If he were to hang it up, that could be the end for a lot of people.

Mary

about 11 years ago

The DNT's quality has dropped precipitously.  I used to get it but no more!  I think it deserves its fate.

Mac

about 11 years ago

Ya Mary, the dozens of people who work there deserve to be out on the streets without a job.  That being said, I hope whatever business you run or are employed by ceases to exist tomorrow.

Paul Lundgren

about 11 years ago

Settle down you two, or I'll stop this car and everyone will have to walk.

Mac

about 11 years ago

I love you Paul and PDD too.

wildreed

about 11 years ago

I lived here 10 years ago and enjoyed the local, unique stories of the DNT. Just moved back and am disappointed in how thin the paper is - not just literally in terms of number of pages, but also in worthy content. I went to pick up a Sunday paper last week, and both the DNT and Star Tribune were 75 cents. The Strib was a better value, sad to say.

wildreed

about 11 years ago

I said the Sunday paper was 75 cents, but it was actually a weekday paper, I believe. In any case, the two papers were the same price and the fact remains that the Strib had much more content for the price.

Barrett Chase

about 11 years ago

Laying off half a dozen people every couple of months will result in less content. Surprise, surprise.

Carla

about 11 years ago

That log in screen seems to be gone???

southshore

about 11 years ago

The News Tribune has lost the equivalent of about 18 to 20 newsroom positions in the past 18 months - either through cuts or by not hiring replacements for people who left on their own.

That leaves a newsroom of about 35 people, give or take a couple. That's still the largest newsroom by far in the Northland - but it has decreased in size by about 35 percent since early 2008.

Stan

about 11 years ago

Bottom line: your subscription and ad dollars are headed to a Republican-owned Fargo, N.D. company. Buy local.

Howie

about 11 years ago

lol, Stan. Nice picture. Can I borrow it?

Jim M

about 11 years ago

EXERCISE BALL SLASHER STRIKES AGAIN!
// 72 point font on front page.

adam

about 11 years ago

So now that we've established that it sucks, what's to be done?

Lessons from the Rocky Mountain News (text & video).

Nonprofit News Media Organizations.

purple

about 11 years ago

I canceled my annual gift subscription to the DNT last Spring, which meant I was really missing out on a half-year of a gift since it's an annual Christmas present. 

The reasons I stopped my subscription are pretty much summarized in Drifter's. Andy's, and Edgewood's statements.

Mary

about 11 years ago

We still get the Sunday DNT (nearly) every week, and we get some solid reading mileage out of that (plus the coupons).   The only exposure I have to the daily edition is at work--I usually only have time to flip through the first few pages, but I agree it does seem to keep getting thinner and thinner.  I don't even know if my boss gets around to reading it--I think we might just get it as part of a package deal with the Wall Street Journal (which he does read daily).

Shane

about 11 years ago

All of you lame people who now use craigslist instead of buying classified ads in the News Tribune are to blame as well.  Less ad revenue = less money to pay quality journalists to perform their craft.

Shane

about 11 years ago

The decrease in revenue for the newspaper can also be blamed on the increased use of free online ads such as craigslist and freecycle.  Much less ad revenue, which pays for quality journalists to ply their craft

edgeways

about 11 years ago

so... wait. They have 35 newsroom staff and wire service, but put out that thin of a paper?

J

about 11 years ago

I'm pretty disappointed at the direction the paper has taken. At this point, it takes me about 1-5 minutes to read, which I'm not sure is worth my .30 a day subscription. 

I don't appreciate the editorial cartoons with the right wing slant, and I'm not sure why they think that would play well in Duluth.

Emphasizing local content makes sense, but not to the point where say, the Pope could be mowed down by Abyssinian terrorists while choking on a anomalous chicken bone that formed inside a piece of GMO broccoli, and the DNT's headline that day would still be 'Local Man Sees T-Shirt He Doesn't Like'.

Sorry for the employees that may lose their jobs, but that is how our system works after all. I'd rather direct my support towards a business I believe in, and perhaps they can get a job at a place that provides such services.

Chester Dark

about 11 years ago

Does 'buy local' only apply to restaurants? As crappy as it is, we decided to support the local newspaper because a community without one would suck.

adam

about 11 years ago

Generally, I refrain from eating at restaurants that give me food poisoning or provide substandard fare.

farglebargle

about 11 years ago

I've lived in towns with much worse dailies (Richmond, Indiana, anyone?) and that was when newspapers were doing well. The editorial pages were a scream. But there were always some good reporters, and if you wanted to stay informed as to what was happening locally, it wasn't the only source, but still an essential one.

pH

about 11 years ago

I've noticed redesign similarities between the (Chicago) Tribune Company newspapers and the DNT.  Anyone out there know if Lee Abrams has done consulting for Forum?  

before and after example:

http://www.visualeditors.com/apple/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/newa1.jpg



 "There was a big myth that you could not have these [newsroom] cuts ... and still produce a quality paper, and that's just nonsense." -Lee Abrams

http://www.mediaweek.com/mw/content_display/esearch/e3id53e7ac87972131edd2dcfc148c06c7a?pn=1

udarnik

about 11 years ago

Alan Jacobson of Brass Tacks Design came out to do the DNT's redesign a little more than a year ago.  I can't remember how much it cost.  http://www.brasstacksdesign.com/team.htm

CitizenD

about 11 years ago

Passionate arguments. Very healthy.

Ramos

about 11 years ago

I agree with Rob that another daily could successfully compete with the DNT. A key factor in this happening would be having a stable of quality reporters who were willing to work for lower wages than the industry average. Since everybody else works for lower wages in Duluth, I don't think this would be too difficult.

It's too bad I'm not very entrepreneurial.

Chester Dark

about 11 years ago

It's about more than the writing. It's about the market for classified ads trending toward Craigslist, eBay, etc. A new daily paper would not be able to survive without classifieds or regular ads.

Rob

about 11 years ago

Ramos- I'm not sure I buy the low wage prerequisite.  I have no idea what the wages are for the DNT writers, but the DNT can afford to pay them.  I doubt the DNT is losing money.  I think they're just not making as much as they want.  What I do know is that the DNT has legacy costs and the old business model weighing it down.  The barrier to entry, profitable entry, has never been lower.  Like most things though it takes money to make money. A new paper / media enterprise will take a large investment, paying writers to write, and printers to print, BEFORE the ad rev is there.  But so what?  I'd bet it will cost less than what Forum paid.  And once Forum is gone, you'd have your nice print monopoly back.

huitz

about 11 years ago

Mac said: I don't see why everyone is complaining so much about logging in. I use Firefox and Safari, login once and don't have to do so for days after the fact. My computer remembers my login and it's just a matter of a few extra clicks. If that is too much labor for you to handle then I feel sorry for you.

I feel sorry for those that think saving passwords in cookies is a competent thing to do.

Mary

about 11 years ago

On a related note, this was just announced by the Daily Press in Ashland:

"Beginning Tuesday, the Nov. 3 The Daily Press will be offering an online edition featuring local news and sports but will cease publishing a Tuesday print edition.

The change is part of a move to enhance the newspaper's multi-media presence and at the same time cut some of the cost associated with producing a print newspaper. The Press will be produced and delivered by carrier or postal service the remaining five days of publication, Wed.-Sat., and Mondays."

http://www.ashlandwi.com/articles/2009/10/19/news/doc4adc83216af9d007192326.txt

I hope their efforts to increase their multi-media presence include making their website look better.

N Stevens

about 10 years ago

I would resubscribe if the TV schedule was printed for the week like in the old Parade and if the best seller list was printed. I like the Rochester, MN paper. It has world and local news in very concise form. Check it out.

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