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Newspapers suffer circular setback


Every Sunday throughout the Tampa Bay area, the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune dispatch small armies of people clad in brightly colored t-shirts to the region’s busiest intersections where they hawk newspapers to motorists. Such are the extreme measures required of the nation’s newspapers these days as they look to maintain circulation figures in an era when websites such as and have eroded the once lucrative classified advertising business. The Sunday newspaper remains a viable means of distributing Sunday circulars for many retailers, but only if circulation levels can be maintained. And even then the circular could fall victim to more efficient means of consumer communications.

For example, Target still distributes 50 million circulars each week, but the same ad is posted on the company’s Web site and visitors can also sign up to have the ad emailed to them. Target estimates that 60 million Web site visitors will view the weekly ad online this year, which is a 40% increase from the prior year. As if that weren’t troubling enough for newspapers, when the company opened its newest store in Wasilla, Alaska this October its circular was only available online.

“This online only approach not only saved us the cost of procuring and running a print circular, it gave us the opportunity to address price issues specific to the market as well as to offer some of the unique assortments to our Alaskan guests,” Target’s executive vp of marketing, Michael Francis, told analysts late last month. “An online circular also offers us an antidote to the steady decline in newspaper circulation.”

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