Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pursuing mid-size circulation

I'll have to admit, this one really hurt. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution used to "cover Dixie like the dew," or at least the Journal did, until it became politically incorrect to say the word Dixie out loud. It was affectionately called the urinal-constipation by resident conservatives, of which there were many in Georgia. My journalism school was named for Henry Grady who popularized the term "New South." He was editor of the Constitution. Across my campus students made a little extra money by selling subscriptions to the AJC. At the time there was a newspaper war going on. The New York Times had purchased the Gwinnett Daily News and tried to take on the AJC. They built a multimillion-dollar three story building. The president of the Times told the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce they were going to march through Atlanta like Sherman. Two years later they folded. I worked for the newspaper that took the Daily News' Gwinnett County niche, the Gwinnett Daily Post.
When I went to the University of Georgia, the local newspaper, Athens Banner-Herald and Daily News (still a morning and afternoon paper in the 90s, can you believe it?) barely bothered to sell on campus. It was the paper of locals. Students were mostly Atlanta kids who wanted Atlanta news. Now the AJC is abandoning the Athens market completely.
I have no idea what their circulation was in Athens at the end, but it is a community of over 100,000, and I'd be willing to bet it was at least 15,000, maybe more.
With such increased retrenchment, it is clear many big-city dailies that once covered their entire state (Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis) are now focused in on the immediate metro. They are seeking to emulate to profitability of many midsized dailies that still dominate their market. Small circ, locally focused.

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