Does that mean that newspapers might as well forget about quality as an economic strategy? That’s not what this data says. There is a relationship between Pulitzer Prizes and circulation (the correlation is .53 among the 50 newspapers listed here). It’s just that this relationship hasn’t changed much from 10 years ago. The vast majority of newspapers have seen their circulations decline; the ones that win a lot of Pulitzers have suffered about as much as the ones that don’t. You could spin this result as a negative for high-quality journalism — newspapers that win Pulitzers are doing no better at retaining their readers — or as a positive — almost all newspapers are struggling, but the ones that win Pulitzers continue to have more readers.
Silver looked at daily circulation figures, which led to some strangeness: The Times-Picayune dropped 100 percent by his count, for example, because it no longer publishes daily.
Increasingly, though, it’s nearly impossible to wrest any meaning from the circulation figures publishers report to the Alliance for Audited Media. The data are, as Silver might say, very, very noisy.… Read more