Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Changing News Habits

Talking of the Statistical Abstract, I chanced across its Table 1134 the other day in the 2011 edition accessible here. It brings us information on newspapers from the year book of Editor & Publisher going back to 1970. I’ve indexed circulation and U.S. population for the period 1970-2000 using the provided decade and one 5-year intervals, and then annually from 2002 through 2008. Both U.S. population and daily newspaper circulation are indexed at 100 in 1970 and then the changes indicated from that year forward. In 1970 circulation stood at 62.1 million daily; our population was 205 million. In 2008 circulation had dropped to 48.6 million, population had increased to 304 million.

Our habits are changing. To tell the truth, exactly what it means is anybody’s guess. Some people who no longer get the paper, still read it on electronic devices. Others who still get the paper—as we get the Detroit News—don’t read the damned thing. It usually sits on a chair still in its red plastic wrapper, sometimes for days on end—unless some necessary shopping causes Brigitte to find relevant ads. We don’t read it because its ink-to-information ratio has radically changed. We still read the New York Times, and daily. But many millions of others get their awareness of the news from radio, television, the Internet, and their cell phones.

I don’t read gloom and doom into the drop, drop, drop, the Chinese water torture our old print media now suffer. I never actually believed in the presence of a vast, well-informed, and highly responsible citizenry trembling with eagerness to do good. Responsible elites are always very small. To get a kind of indication of that, take a look at next post. There you will learn something about the circulation of the Statistical Abstract itself.

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