Today the latest circulation numbers came out for the Top 25 daily newspapers in the USA. It was very grim news for the AJC. In the last year alone readership fell 19%.
I looked up the circulation numbers from 2004 and in the last 5 years daily circulation of the AJC has fallen from 397,000 to 261,000. That is a decline of 1/3 in just 5 years. If the AJC were to lose another 136,000 readers per five year period there will be zero readers in 2018.
Largest Percentage Decline in the Top 20 Newspapers from 2004-2009.
-35% San Francisco Chronicle
-34% Atlanta Journal Constitution
-33% Boston Globe
-28% Newark Star Ledger
-23% Houston Chronicle
-22% Philadelphia Inquirer
-21% Portland Oregonian
Now I have mixed feelings about this. I grew up on pouring over newspapers and I really enjoy reading while eating a solitary lunch. I prefer reading a printed page to a computer screen--but I can see where this is heading. It is rather unlikely Atlanta will still have a print newspaper in 5 years. The AJC may survive online but it will be with a much smaller staff.
What does this mean for coverage of the Thrashers? Well you're already seeing it as beat writer Mike Knobler took a buyout and the Sports Desk Editor Chris Vivalmore has been tossed the Thrashers job along with his other duties.
Reading between the lines the full time Thrasher beat reporter job was eliminated and merged with other jobs at the AJC. Road trip reports are unlikely. Will we get morning skate updates on who is hurt and who is going to be scratched? I don't know.
Now the NHL has already embraced digital media. During the playoffs they began hosting blogger content from SB Nation writers who cover teams that qualified for the playoffs.
I'm hopeful that the Atlanta Thrashers will follow the NHL's lead and develop a more proactive policy with respect to hockey bloggers. I've written about this before, but the Thrashers could establish a summer class in responsible journalism and establish the standards that would be required for access to players and coaches. It would take some work on the part of the organization but it might pay off with some content dividends.
At this point in time it has been eight months since the last Thrashers blogger event (Meet Coach Anderson). I find it amazing that they couldn't find the time to organize a similar sit down Q and A with Don Waddell or Zach Bogosian or Bryan Little at some point during the last season.
The old days of relying on large circulation newspaper to provide free buzz about your sports product are going away. The Thrashers already have a surprisingly large number of bloggers writing about their team--as the media environment changes will the organization evolve and embrace the opportunity in front of them?