Community coverage, involvement keys to industry survival

Oklahoma dailies, like the majority of U.S. newspapers, are losing subscribers. But, while most major newspapers are shrinking at a staggering rate, just a handful in Oklahoma appear to be losing paid subscribers at a double-digit rate.
In this issue, which focuses on the media, we list daily and weekly newspaper circulation figures for papers in the Tulsa market on pages Focus 3 and Focus 4. We ranked papers according to their paid circulation in their Statement of Ownership, published around Oct. 1 every year.
Figures show the state’s leading daily paper losing subscribers at a double-digit rate compared to a year ago. The Daily Oklahoman lost 16.5 percent from 2008 and 17.8 percent from 2007. The state’s second largest daily, the Tulsa World, meanwhile, lost 4.3 percent from 2008, but was only down 3.7 percent from ‘07, according to the World’s Statement of Ownership. All of the daily papers that the TBJ examined saw drops in circulation.
The decline in newspaper circulation has several causes. Many publications intentionally reduce the range of their deliveries, cutting out ‘burbs where they sell relatively few copies. Higher prices for home delivery and newsstand copies also have driven some readers away. Publishers are betting they can keep their most loyal readers and are charging them more to help offset their crumbling ad sales — the main source of newspaper revenue.
Looking at weekly newspapers, the majority have seen their paid circulation drop. Three — Oologah Lake Leader, Bigheart Times and Morris News — gained subscribers.
Lake Leader Publisher John Wylie said the paper has grown through a combination of market growth and, “frankly, doing an extraordinarily good job of covering our communities.”
The Lake Leader repeatedly wins the top prize in the state’s annual newspaper contest. Wylie estimates that, over the past 28 years, the paper has won more than any other paper in its class.
What makes the Lake Leader strong is true across the industry: good local coverage and an effort to involve the young.
The Lake Leader’s Newspapers in Education program is key, he said. The Lake Leader uses its Web site to encourage print readership but also performs promotions tied to community events throughout the year — including a home tour and fishing derby.
The foundation to maintaining readership is to be a irreplaceable part of the community.

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