Where 1990's Top Papers Are Now

Two Decades Later, Only Five Pubs Have Grown Paid Circulation

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A correction has been appended to this article.

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Of the 25 biggest weekday papers in 1990, the year newspaper employment peaked and the year before circulation declines really gathered momentum, 20 papers have lost ground. One, The Rocky Mountain News, was just shut down by Scripps. Only five have expanded paid circulation by more than a couple percentage points: two national papers with distinct marketing hooks, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal; one money-losing ego play, the New York Post; and The Arizona Republic, which is up a remarkable 9%.

Paid circulation

20 of 1990's top 25 papers have seen circulation fall.
A lot of that growth accrues to Arizona's own population growth; recent years have seen paid circulation slip there, too. But check in with The Arizona Republic today and you'll see it's still working circulation as hard as it can -- the calculus is just getting ever more complicated.

The paper is focusing on Sundays, for one thing, where the most ad revenue resides. "Every Sunday in the paper, in this Super Sunday timeframe that we've been working on, we've made it special -- to give the customer something different, whether it's a special package from the news content side or whether it was a special promotion we worked on with an advertiser," said John Zidich, president and publisher. It also raised home-delivery prices all week and even dropped some costly Sunday circulation serving areas 200 miles away. "The whole philosophy in our circulation department has changed dramatically in the past year," Mr. Zidich said. "We're basically looking at the cost-analysis of every unit of circulation."

The overall result? The Republic is on track to post a narrow circulation increase for Sundays when the latest reporting period ends a few weeks from now.


The original version of this article incorrectly stated that 21 of 1990's top 25 papers have lost ground since then. The correct number of papers is 20.

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