Unexpectedly Intriguing!
July 11, 2007

Since we mentioned the New York Times yesterday, we thought it might be time to look again at the business health of the nation's "most influential" newspaper. A year ago, we looked at the circulation figures the New York Times presented in their annual reports to the Security and Exchange Commission going all the way back to 1993. So now, a year later, we're doing the same to see how the Gray Lady has fared.

It's not pretty. First, here's the New York Times' weekday (Monday through Friday) circulation figures from 1993 through 2006:

New York Times Weekday Circulation 1993-2006

We find that within the 31 county area that includes and surrounds New York City, and which encompasses the New York Times' home market, circulation has now dropped 30.0% below its 1993 peak. Meanwhile, when we include the newspaper's national circulation, we find that the New York Times' total circulation has dropped some 6.7% below its 1993 peak.

The following table provides the year-by-year weekday circulation data provided by the New York Times in their annual filings with the SEC:

New York Times Weekday Circulation, 1993-2006
Year Weekday Circulation (Mon-Fri) Percentage of Total Circulation in NYC Weekday Circulation Within NYC Market Weekday Circulation Outside NYC Market
1993 1,183,100 64 757,184 425,916
1994 1,148,800 64 735,232 413,568
1995 1,124,300 62 697,066 427,234
1996 1,111,800 62 689,316 422,484
1997 1,090,900 62 676,358 414,542
1998 1,088,100 61 663,741 424,359
1999 1,109,700 60 665,820 443,880
2000 1,122,400 59 662,216 460,184
2001 1,143,700 58 663,346 480,354
2002 1,131,400 55 622,270 509,130
2003 1,132,000 53 599,960 532,040
2004 1,124,700 50 562,350 562,350
2005 1,135,800 49 556,542 579,258
2006 1,103,600 48 529,728 573,872

The data in the table confirms that the New York Times has primarily become a national newspaper at the expense of its home market. In 1993, the 31-county New York City market represented 64% of its total circulation. In 2006 however, the New York City market represents just 48% of its total weekday circulation.

The data also confirms that the first drop in the newspaper's national year-over-year circulation figures since its management began focusing on a national publication strategy in 1998, as this figure declined by 0.94%.

But what about the Sunday edition of the New York Times? How has it fared over this period?

Would you believe worse? The following chart illustates the decline of the New York Times' Sunday edition:

New York Times Sunday Circulation 1993-2006

We find that the New York Times' circulation in its home market has steadily dropped to a figure 35.9% below its peak value in 1993. Meanwhile, when we add the newspaper's national circulation to the totals in 2006, we find that it has declined by 8.2% since 1993's peak.

The table below provides the year-by-year circulation figures for the New York Times' Sunday edition:

New York Times Sunday Circulation, 1993-2006
Year Sunday Circulation Percentage of Total Circulation in NYC Sunday Circulation Within NYC Market Sunday Circulation Outside NYC Market
1993 1,783,900 63 1,123,857 660,043
1994 1,742,200 63 1,097,586 644,614
1995 1,720,300 60 1,032,180 688,120
1996 1,701,800 60 1,021,080 680,720
1997 1,651,400 59 974,326 677,074
1998 1,638,900 58 950,562 688,338
1999 1,671,200 56 935,872 735,328
2000 1,686,700 55 927,685 759,015
2001 1,659,900 53 879,747 780,153
2002 1,682,100 51 857,871 824,229
2003 1,682,100 49 824,229 857,871
2004 1,669,700 47 784,759 884,941
2005 1,684,700 44 741,268 943,432
2006 1,637,700 44 720,588 917,112

Again, we find that 2006 marked the first year in which the Times' circulation outside the NYC market, fell from the previous year since the newspaper's management began focusing on growing its national circulation in 1998. The year over year drop from 2005 to 2006 represents a 2.8% decrease in the Sunday edition's circulation.

We wonder if these declines in the output of the New York Times in 2006 might account for the perception of its reporter, David Leonhardt ($$$), that the entire U.S. manufacturing sector is in recession, despite all evidence to the contrary since he made his statement in February 2007. (HT: Tom Blumer)

In any case, the substantial declines of both the weekday editions and the Sunday edition of the newspaper suggest, combined with recent changes by the newspaper's management that will likely accelerate these trends, means that the New York Times is running out of time and thus, the Gray Lady is fading into the twilight of its existence. At very least, as we have known it.

Previously on Political Calculations

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