Tuesday, May 01, 2007

No Wanking on Your Ranking Today: Chronicle Circulation Falls, A Little, But Voluble Publisher Remains Strangely Silent

Not much news here: Circulation continues to roll steadily downhill at the Houston Chronicle and most other big-city newspapers, as measured by the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations report. The Chronicle, however, suffered a drop of just 2 percent in its daily paid circulation, a mere shaving nick (compared to the 14 percent gut-shot sustained by the Dallas Morning News) that we expected would somehow be processed into almost-good news by the unrivaled verbal dexterity of Chronicle publisher Jack Sweeney.

But we found no word of the latest figures in Tuesday’s Chronicle, the day after the ABC report was released---not even the perfunctory “Circulation falls but Chronicle retains ranking as 7th largest metropolitan newspaper” that’s usually hidden way back in the paper’s business section. That means discerning Houston readers were denied a fresh serving of long, declamatory quotes from Sweeney explaining away the declines and forecasting better times ahead in “today’s media landscape.” (Perhaps he, like us, has not fully recovered from that shower scene in Sunday night’s Sopranos.)

So let us step into the breach in Sweeney’s absence and discern the half-fullness of the cup: By our calculation the Chronicle’s weekday circulation has fallen by just about 50,000 over the past two years. At that rate, the Hearst Corp. can wring about 20 more years of columns from Leon Hale before it converts 801 Texas into high-rise lofts.

UPDATE: We wrote too soon, as Wednesday’s business section reports that---ta da!---“Chronicle steady in newspaper rankings.” The story quotes (so to speak) Sweeney saying the paper “had its second straight gain on Sunday,” although the lede reports “Sunday circulation declined 2.2 percent.” Well, whatever. As Sweeney puts it, “There’s still plenty of demand for a compelling local newspaper delivered to your door every day.”

Who could argue?

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