"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Dead trees fall, but . . .

The trend line is persistent: Newspaper subscriptions continue their downward plunge.

For the six months ending in September, circulation nationally fell another 2.8%. Exceptions appear, but the overall is clear enough, and of a piece with the trend line in the last decade and more.

In Seattle, that has meant more circulation losses at the two dailies, albeit at slower paces – they’re sinking a little more slowly. The Seattle Times weekday circulation now stands at 212,691 (down, over six months, by 1.3%), the Post-Intelligencer at 126,225 (down 4.9%). For a close-in metro area of three million and more, that’s shockingly low. The third-largest paper in the state, the Tacoma News Tribune, dropped 5.7% (now 116,150).

In 2000, the Times stood at 225,687, the P-I at 75,794.

And probably no one expects a reversal in the next six-month report.

This kind of trend line can’t go on forever.

The sort-of bright spot for newspapers in this is that traffic on their web sites (from which they earn relatively little) is continuing a steady growth.

Question: When does the tail start wagging the dog? It’s beginning to look as if you can pinpoint the date on the right kind of spreadsheet . . .

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