The long-term trendlines are clear. They started before the Web even. There’s only one year with lower circulation numbers than what 2009 will end up being, and that’s the first year in the NAA records: 1940. Believe me, sometime next year we’ll have a new low.

Point being, it’s unlikely that any increase in circulation revenue will offset the loss of advertising revenue caused by fewer readers, much less that industry’s long-term shift away from the print medium. Last year print ads brought $35 billion in revenue. Circulation brought much less. The last year the NAA tracked it was 2004 at $11 billion. At best, the industry has tread water since then and most likely that number has declined. That gap is surely narrowing, but that’s not a good thing as that’s mostly because of declines in advertising, which is now at 1965 levels and dropping fast.


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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.