Circulation at the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post: oh what a difference seven years makes

Going down?

Circulation continues to fall at major metropolitan daily newspapers around the country -- and the numbers at the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post are worse than the national average. According to the most recent survey conducted by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the organization charged with tracking such statistics for the print journalism industry, circulation for the 507 newspapers surveyed dropped 4.6 percent daily and 4.8 percent on Sunday during the six-month period that ended in September. At the Rocky and the Post, meanwhile, circ slid 6.6 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively -- and their combined Sunday circulation was off by a hefty 9.1 percent.

These figures are even more unsettling when compared to ABC data from earlier in the millennium.

The ABC report for the six-month period that ended September 30, 2001 -- approximately seven years ago -- listed total paid circulation Monday through Thursday at the Rocky at 309,938, versus 210,281 today -- just over a 32 percent decline. At the Post, the Monday through Thursday numbers were 305,929 seven years ago, as opposed to 210,585 -- more than a 31 percent dip. Comparing these totals side by side is a little difficult, given that the September 2001 report featured separate Friday numbers that were considerably higher than the daily average: 374,893 at the Rocky, 350,724 at the Post. But there's no such issue when it comes to the Sunday sums. The circulation was 801,315 then, 545,442 now. That, too, represents a shrinkage of around 32 percent, or nearly a third of total circulation.

With numbers like these, it's no wonder press observers inside and outside the Rocky and Post newsrooms continue to fear that one of the papers will have to die in order for the other to live longer. It's tough to envision a scenario in which annual six-percent declines wouldn't result in a casualty on one side of the street or the other. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts