Monday, November 07, 2005


We often marvel at how lucky we are to be alive during this precise sliver of history. So much going on; so many innovations and breakthroughs that we can scarcely hold a grudge against the cartoonists from 1962, who thought Judy Jetson would still be using a turntable to listen to albums. A slip of an error in the forecast, nothing more.

But the gang who cobbled together "The Jetsons" did get one thing right. In the future, newspapers were not a player.

On Monday, the Audit Bureau of Circulations released circ numbers for the nation's 20 most-read newspapers. All but two of the newspapers suffered erosion in circulation. This comes after the last six-month report showed declines in readership.

The country's most-read newspaper, USA Today, has 2,296,335 readers, a drop of a half-percent from the same six months in 2004.

The rest of the list reads like a roomful of the usual suspects -- but on closer read, there are some icons missing. No Detroit News. No St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In their place are oddballs like the Portland Oregonian -- a fine read, no doubt, but how in hell did it wind up as the nation's 19th-largest newspaper?

Another how-in-hell involves the Los Angeles Times. In a city of 3.5 million people, the Times circ is 843,432, down almost four percent. Good to see the Times is living up to its reputation for sucking.

We're sure that online newspaper editions are one reason for the drop in paid circ. Newspapers have yet to figure out the revenue generators for online editions, but once they do (if they do), that's when the traditional paper-and-ink versions will become as quaint as dial-up connections and cathode-ray tubes.

People used to say the internet would never replace newspapers because you couldn't take a computer into the bathroom. Laptop machines and wireless connections make it easy to read the News-Leader while sitting on the can. And no ink-stained fingers!

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