NAPLES — Those on a death watch for newspapers should take note of what’s happening here at the Naples Daily News.
This winter we are registering healthy increases in paid subscribers — both weekday and Sunday, especially Sunday.
That’s something we haven’t seen in the better part of a decade.
In February, we delivered more newspapers to driveways and condominiums than February of last year. We’ve been experiencing a year-over-year gain since fall, and it’s building.
Last month, daily subscriptions were up 2.3 percent over the same month last year. On Sunday, home delivery was up 4.9 percent compared to 2010.
We’re not sure how many others can report a growth in paid home-delivery subscriptions – one of the core measurements of a healthy newspaper – but we will know for sure sometime in the spring when dailies from around the United States file their six-month audit of circulation. The industry does audits twice a year, at the end of September and again at the end of March.
Nearly all newspapers have shown circulation declines the past decade and a half, sparking talk of the death of newspapers, even though the photos and stories produced by newsrooms around the country are seen and read by more people than ever, thanks to the Internet.
That’s especially true at the Daily News.
Our naplesnews.com Web site registers more than 8 million page views and 1 million unique users a month. The year-over-year growth in this “Web site circulation” averages about 20 percent a month. In January, it was 25 percent.
Those monitoring newspapers for the number of readers they reach each day now have a measurement for something called “total audience” – the number of paid print subscribers plus the number of unique daily visitors to the Web site. In January (we’re still waiting for February numbers) our total audience was more than 140,000 a day. Two years ago, it was barely topped 100,000.
What’s the reason for this growth in readership?
Those of us in the newsroom like to believe it’s directly related to the quality and quantity of the news we provide.
We can document that for our electronic edition of the newspaper where we know exactly how many people read each story and look at each photograph, and when they do it. The more local news we post on our Web site, the more readers we get. The growth in our print subscriptions takes some speculation.
The reason 2,500 more people paid to have the Sunday print edition of the Daily News delivered to their home in February no doubt says something about the local economy. It’s a sign things are improving. The increase might also say something about the winter up north. It’s been a cold and snowy one. It also has to have something to do with the skill and diligence of our circulation department.
Still, we’re banking on it being related to the amount of news we publish each day, news that is especially meaningful to the residents of Lee and Collier counties.
That’s the reason you are seeing our reporters writing byline stories in Tallahassee. We’ve expanded our news coverage of state government, where in past years we’ve relied on the Associated Press and a veteran correspondent named Michael Peltier to keep tabs on Tallahassee and our local legislators. This spring, in a partnership with our sister E.W. Scripps newspaper on the Treasure Coast, we have dispatched Ryan Mills and Jonathan Mattise to the state capital. So, now we have the AP, a veteran correspondent and two energetic staff reporters on the job.
We also are actively recruiting again in the newsroom with the belief that more local news will bring more subscribers.
If you know of two reporters skilled in breaking news and investigative reporting, send them our way.
Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News; his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org