Subscriber Churn Down Dramatically, Says NAA Study

By: Jennifer Saba There is some good news to come out of massive declines in circulation, believe it or not. Subscriber churn -- that is, the number of people who cancel their subscriptions -- has fallen drastically.

In 2008 subscriber churn fell to 31.8% from 54.5% in 2000, according to the Newspaper Association of America, which just released its 2009 Circulation Facts, Figures and Logic study.

"As the fall in subscriber churn indicates, publishers have focused their efforts on retaining subscribers in key market segments that translate into maximum advertiser value," John Sturm, president and CEO of the NAA, said in a statement.

During the past eight years, daily newspaper circulation has plunged due to many factors including publishers culling non core editions - third party, hotel and copies distributed to outlying areas -- as well as a general decline in readers subscribing to the paper. According to the Editor & Publisher International Year Book and the NAA, daily newspaper circulation declined almost 13% during the past eight years to 48,597,000.

Among publishers there has been a renewed interested in circulation revenue and getting readers to stay with newspapers, even if it means a fewer number of subscribers. The strategy is one of quality over quantity. And also this: If a person wants to read a print edition, they are going to have to pay.

It's working, to an extent. While many public newspaper companies revealed that circulation volume decreased in Q2, circulation revenue was up at many companies: It advanced 5% at McClatchy, 2.1% at E.W. Scripps, and 1.5% at The New York Times Co., for instance.

The new report from the NAA found that 32% of newspapers priced their daily edition at 75 cents at the end of 2008 compared to 2% in 2006. The seven-day, home-delivered weekday rate also rose to $3.66 in 2008 from $3.37 in 2006.

That said, newspapers are also extending discounts to hang on to subscribers. In 2008, 92% of newspapers offered a discount with a recurring payment plan.

Additionally, 15% of newspapers outsource home delivery while 40% deliver other publications.


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