Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Free Fallin' at the AJC
Ouch. Daily circulation of the embattled Atlanta Journal-Constitution is now under 200,000, meaning the AJC has considerably fewer readers than, for instance, the Detroit Free Press.
Think about that for a second. Metro Atlanta's population is approximately 5,000,000 and growing. Metro Detroit's is around 800,000 and shrinking.
There was a time--and it was not very long ago--when the AJC really did "cover Dixie like the dew," to borrow the paper's since-discarded motto. The paper was available daily at racks as far away as Enterprise, Alabama, roughly 250 miles to the southeast. Today, it's hard to find an AJC anywhere outside the Atlanta metro.
There are a lot of reasons for the AJC's precipitous decline. Obviously, lots people quit buying the physical paper when they could get the same thing on the web for free--but the AJC's website is abysmally bad, and doesn't even rank in listings of the most successful newspaper sites. All those former readers didn't just go online, they've left the paper entirely.
The reality is that the AJC thought its status as a big-city monopoly daily would last forever. The paper's editorial page and slanted "news" apparatus spent decades spitting in the faces of the vast majority of their potential customers, and now that they have unlimited news options, few if any of those customers see any reason to go back today. The paper has shrunk to a boring and poorly-written digest of old news, and the AJC's left-wing slant continues unabated (the lead editorial writer actually moved to D.C. last year to better fulfill her role as a full-on Obama Administration apologist). After several waves of buyouts, even the sports section, once easily the best in the region, is lousy.
According to a 16-month-old report, the AJC was at one point losing $1 million a week for its parent, Cox Communications. Cox is a private, family-owned corporation, whose matriarch, Anne Cox Chambers, has long considered the paper to be the 'crown jewel' of her daddy's old company.
Chambers is currently 90 years old. One suspects that the faltering AJC will not long survive its benefactor after she moves on to her reward.