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The Death of the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post

Updated on April 12, 2016
Billrrrr profile image

Bill Russo is featured in the film & TV show, The Bridgewater Triangle & has written several books (both fiction & non) on Amazon Kindle.

by Bill Russo

Beware New York Times, Boston Globe, and Wall Street Journal. He is coming for you.

Chicago Sun/Times, LA Times, USA Today, and Washington Post, you are also overdue.

Atlanta Journal/Constitution, Philadelphia Enquirer, and Cleveland Plain Dealer;

the subs won't renew..

Stalking you, is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - it's The Pale Rider; (DEATH).

Newspaper circulation in America, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation is down more than 20 per cent in the last five years.

Just as in the human body, when circulation falls to a critical level, life will cease. At the present rate of decline, newspapers probably have a remaining life span of as little as a single decade.

Advertising revenue for many publications has fallen by double digits for several years and circulation figures are tumbling nearly as fast.

Most newspapers have battled the loss of advertising and circulation by several rounds of price increases. In 1960 the average price of a daily newspaper like the New York Times, was five cents. In 2016 a single copy of the Times costs $2.50 and the price of the Sunday edition is $5.00.

If the New York Times modified its price to reflect the actual rate of inflation over the last 54 years - the price of the paper would not even be close to $2.50.

It would be just 38 cents!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My local paper, the Cape Cod Times, has increased its price to $1.50. Many days the paper only has a dozen or so pages and yet it still costs the full price!

You can get home delivery of the Cape Cod Times for about $4.00 a week; but up to 16 times a year the subscribers can be billed an extra $2.00 for what the company calls 'premium' issues. 'Premium' issues are published at holiday times such as Thanksgiving. The issues have a great number of pages, including an over-abundance of paid advertising. The Cape Cod Times says that it needs to charge the extra $2.00 per copy due to the large size of the edition. Following that logic, shouldn't the single copy price be lowered to only 50 cents when they have less than 16 pages??????

The Times, like all other newspapers, is forcing the loyal subscribers to make up for lost advertising and circulation revenue.

Advertisers are scratching out their newspaper schedules as if they were fleas. They don't want anything to do with an industry that some people perceive to be in its death throes.

The Cape Cod Times not long ago had 65,000 subs (subscribers) and now has around 30,000.

If newspapers were able to post double digit circulation increases, instead of drops, the sheep-like advertisers would quickly wander back. But how can they increase their reach? The answer is so simple, why have no publishers tried it?

For the solution, let's travel back to 1833 to the office of a young man named Benjamin H. Day. He started the New York Sun that year and is credited with inventing the "American" newspaper. He chose not to make his paper like all the others of the era - which were designed more as literary works, than devices of communication and news. He was the first publisher to actually publish 'news'; news of the mundane, news of daily happenings, of crime, and of current events. He knew that 'names' sell papers, so he packed his 'sheet' full of local news and names.

The most important thing he did, was to price his paper at a single penny a copy! All of the other New York papers cost five or six cents. Ben Day's formula was an instant success.

His model was copied over the next several years by many other publishers who also achieved great success with what was called the "Penny Press" in homage to Day, the father of the genre.

What if the Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Cape Cod Times, The Denver Post, and all of the other papers, slashed their 2016 price to 50 cents a copy? I am certain that they would see double digit (perhaps even triple digit) increases in their reach.

The increased circulation would bring back a storm of advertisers. Their losses from reducing the cover price of the paper, would quickly be washed away by a surge of new advertising revenue.

Note to Newspaper Publishers: TRY REDUCING THE PRICE OF YOUR PRODUCT! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE! YOUR BUSINESS IS GOING AWAY ANYWAY........but if you try it Ben Day's way, maybe you can save it.

A real newspaper man, Ben Day in 1833

Clarence Day's Novel as a 1940 film

I traced Benjamin Day's ancestry back to Major John Day, who was buried in Attleboro, Massachetts in 1752. Many of Major Day's sons, grandsons, great grandsons, and great, great grandsons, were successful in a variety of endeavors.

One of the most famous members of the Day family was best selling author Clarence Day Junior. He wrote a number of successful works, but is best known for "Life With Father" a humorous remembrance of growing up in 1890's New York, where his father ran a prosperous Wall Street Stock brokerage.

The book was adapted into a play and became one of the longest running Broadway shows ever. It was also transformed into a 1947 Warner Brothers film with William Powell, Irene Dunn, and a charming, very young, Elizabeth Taylor. The movie can be seen for free at the Internet Archives.


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    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 3 years ago from Cape Cod

      Thanks Genna. Twenty years ago I could not have gotten through a day without a newspaper. Now, I get most of my news online because I just don't want to pay $1.50 for a newspaper. Part of this is due to being on a "Fixed Income" (social security). If I were still working, I am pretty sure I would still be getting a daily paper.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      It is a death knell that is unimaginable and tragic. In this day of expanding technology, and the fact that people read less and are acquiring shortened attention spans, it is disturbing. Excellent hub, Bill!