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I’m not even sure why I always call them “fish wrappers.” More people probably line bird cages than encase carp with the local paper. Even more likely use ’em to start fires and keep weeds out of the garden. A thousand uses. But the primary purpose continues its long, slow slide.

The Pew Research Center found total US daily newspaper circulation, print and digital combined, was 31 million for weekday and 34 million for Sunday in 2017, down 11 and 10 percent, respectively, from the previous year.

But the researchers excluded digital circulation figures from two major newspapers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, whose subscriber data is not audited.

The New York Times reported a 42 percent gain in digital circulation and The Wall Street Journal a 26 percent rise.

If the independently produced figures were included in both 2016 and 2017, weekday digital circulation would have risen by 10 percent, according to Pew.

But even if it included the digital gains for the two big dailies, overall combined weekday circulation for US newspapers would still be down by four percent in 2017, the report said.

31 or 34 million means that only 10% of the US population gets news from newspapers. This is not especially reassuring news to a guy trying to float a new syndicated column. But it’s not the end of the world. Changes like this have been a constant throughout history.

As I’ve said before, I think the future of print is, largely: 1) the big three (WSJ, NYT, and USAT), and: 2) smaller locals and niche pubs. There’s probably some digital middle ground for those in between – probably with LOTS of ads all over the screen…

Back to the numbers, by pseudo-scientific methods, let’s try to get down to 31 or 34 million, shall we? 325,000,000-ish people: 31 + 34 ÷ 2 x 1,000,000. Thanks to falling IQs and pitiful “schools,” half are functionally illiterate, with no need for printed words of any kind. Down to 162,500,000. Of these, let’s assume that yet half again are even moderately interested in what’s going on around them (the rest being absorbed, fully, into the hedonism and triviality of the day). That’s 81,250,000. Getting there. Of the potentially literate, interested, and aware, half again might be truth-seekers. 40,625,000. Almost on target. 10% of that number may be turned off by bias, poor reporting, disinterest in the locale, price per copy, etc. That leaves 36,562,500. Yeah. Applying the old marketing assumption of 3% – here, in reverse – leaves 35,465,625. Aaaand that’s close enough. You’re welcome.

If I could offer any advice (and I will) for a local or regional publication looking to buck the trend, then:

1) Embrace the digital but keep it a true copy of the printed product and NOT some jumping, shifting, unsearchable pile of bullsh!t punctuated heavily by ads for crap no one wants. This can be done technologically and it can be done within the parameters of “normal” subscription costs.

2) For the printed word – print a real, FULL-SIZED paper! When did the news shrink down to Bazooka wrapper stature? And why?

3) Focus on reporting the local interests and the national/international headlines of note, with proper separation.

4) Restore the Funnies. Give them a daily section, maybe conjoined with the political news.

5) Have a business section worth reading. Remember when the city paper ran the NYSE indexes for the previous day in full? For a digital, this is as easy as an associated link to CBNC or Bloomberg.

6) Carry Perrin’s national affairs column, as currently seen at TPC (new one shortly, I’m told). At full price, of course. Soon I’ll announce whether it’s available from Creators, King, McMeel, or another service.

These suggestions, the last one aside, are not sure-fire by any means.

Others will still get “news” from some source. There’s always: the idiot box, Farcebook approved links, Snap Chirp or whatever the hell it’s called, those ever-so-informative cat videos, and rappers advising on the best auto injury attorneys…

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Jolly Blog.

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