Pew: Only 2 top-20 alt-weeklies saw circulation gains in 2013

Pew Research Center

Many of America’s biggest alternative weeklies saw circulation fall or remain stagnant in 2013, but there were two exceptions: The Chicago Reader and Miami New Times.

The gains, reported by Pew Research Center this morning, show that those two papers were the only two to buck the trend of frozen and declining circulation that affected almost all of the top 20 largest alt-weeklies. The Chicago Reader’s circulation grew by nearly 6 percent, and Miami New Times saw a 1 percent bump.

On average, circulation decreased by 6 percent across the largest alt-weeklies in 2013. Philadelphia Weekly saw the largest percentage drop in circulation at 13.1 percent, closely followed by LA Weekly (12.7 percent) Minneapolis’ City Pages (12.6 percent) and Dallas Observer (12.4 percent). The circulation of Willamette Week, in Portland, Oregon, was flat.

Membership in the Association of Alternative Media, an organization dedicated to the education and success of alt-weeklies, has also fallen, Pew reported:

The association’s membership reached a high water mark of about 135 in 2009, a figure now down to 117 publications. (When the organization was created in 1978, it started with 30 members). One of the largest and best-known alternative weeklies, the Boston Phoenix, closed in 2013 after 47 years. The Honolulu Weekly and Urban Tulsa (OK)—both more than 20 years old—also went out of business in 2013.

The report added that the weeklies have been bought by various entities, including community paper chains and individuals not traditionally affiliated with the media:

“Former Green Bay Packer Mark Tauscher, along with two other partners, bought the Madison Wisconsin-based weekly, Isthmus. One of the largest alt-weekly chains, SouthComm Communications (with seven papers), sold the 24-year-old Leo Weekly (in Louisville, Kentucky) to a group of local investors in April.”

Note: This post has been updated to correct a fact error in the original headline. The Pew report referred to the circulation of the top 20 alt-weeklies, not all alt-weeklies, as the headline suggested.

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  • toddstauffer

    @eclisham:disqus As a “weekly” publisher, I agree. When print was all we had it may have been more of an objective metric or stand-in for reach. These days, print circulation is really a more fluid component of the controlled-circ publication’s strategy than it would be with dailies (where reporting paid circ makes sense, particularly with many dailies using paywalls and reporting that as circ). These percentages of controlled print circ, while marginally interesting, don’t really tell the whole story. One if forced to guess, for instance, whether these alts have gained reach on the Web or via other publication outlets (apps, tablets layouts, mobile sites), etc.

  • Elaine Clisham

    Again — why are we still using print circulation as the measure?