Media Mutt

Back To Bleak: Portland Press Herald Circulation Declines

By Al Diamon

Downbound: The Portland Press Herald, the state’s largest daily, posted its annual U.S. Postal Service statement of ownership, management and circulation in its Oct. 5 edition. It showed that the paper sold an average of 46,071 copies each weekday during the preceding year, compared to 49,587 in 2011. That’s a 7 percent decline.

A year ago, former CEO Richard Connor was claiming that the paper had turned the corner on circulation, posting a 1 percent increase after years of shedding readers.

But skeptics pointed to the many cut-price promotions Connor offered as possible causes of the slight uptick. When new ownership moved in, it ended many of those gimmicks, including ultra-cheap subscriptions and big discounts for bulk buys. That would appear to account for much of the 3,500-per-day loss in sales.

If that’s the case, the Press Herald has actually been doing better at retaining customers over the past two years than it did between 2009 and 2010, when circulation dropped off a cliff, losing 18 percent.


Other numbers: The Morning Sentinel in Waterville (like the Press Herald, owned by MaineToday Media) also had grim figures to report. The average number of copies sold on weekdays dropped 8 percent since last year, declining from 14,817 to 13,638. Elimination of promotions may also have figured in that downturn.

A sharp-eyed reader found the Postal Service statement for the Journal Tribune, an afternoon paper in Biddeford that’s owned by Sample Media, buried in the Oct. 1 edition’s classified section. It said the JT sold an average of 4,055 copies Monday through Friday and 5,797 of its Saturday weekend edition. I couldn’t locate last year’s figures, but in March 2011, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which uses different criteria to measure sales, had the paper at 4,558 daily and 5,471 on weekends. The Journal Tribune’s Wikipedia page claims 5,400 daily and 10,292 on weekends, but that’s either grossly out of date or wishful thinking.

The Original Irregular, a weekly in Kingfield, showed a 5 percent drop in average sales from last year to this, going from 1,935 to 1,840. That almost exactly reverses the gain the Irregular posted between 2010 and 2011, a drop-off that can probably be attributed to the poor ski season, which drew fewer people to the paper’s circulation area during the winter.

If you spot circulation statements in your local papers, please pass them along to me.


New print? The New Maine Times – a Bath-based website focused on politics, the environment and the arts – announced earlier this week that it would initiate a print edition in January. Then, on Oct. 5, it announced the announcement was premature.

“We’re still negotiating,” NMT editor Gina Hamilton said in an e-mail.

The “we” in question is Hamilton and Charles Fitzgerald, a wealthy environmental activist from Dover-Foxcroft. If the deal goes through, Fitzgerald will become a board member at NMT in March, bringing with him a Donald Sussman-like string of disclaimers. For starters, he’s a major landowner in northern and western Maine, with much of his property in trust. He also owns wilderness cabins near Baxter State Park and a wooden products store in Bar Harbor. In 1994, he was a Green Party candidate for Congress.

The plans call for statewide distribution and a 10,000-copy press run. Hamilton is also hoping to hire Andi Parkinson, a frequent poster on the Dirigo Blue and Maine Progressive websites, as deputy editor and political director.

The new New Maine Times would have offices in both Bath and Dover-Foxcroft.


New hole: MaineToday Media has lost its interim chief executive officer. Patrick Sweeney, who was elevated to the post in the chaos that followed ex-CEO Richard Connor’s departure late last year, has left to join Biddeford-based Internet provider GWI as chief financial officer.

To date, MaineToday hasn’t named a replacement.

Pseudonymous media critic Thomas Cushing Munjoy forwarded this link to a July 17, 2011 story about new management at MTM. He pointed out that with the exception of director of information technology Stewart Wright, every other person mentioned in the story, including the reporter who wrote it, is no longer with the company.


New criticism: Speaking of Munjoy, those who’ve lamented the loss of his critical (and insightful) blogging since he left the state in 2010 will be pleased to know he’s planning a return. In an e-mail on Oct. 5, he said he plans to launch “Munjoy 2.0” later this month, firing away at journalistic incompetence in Portland and Maine.

Will he still be his same acerbic self? Consider this comment from his e-mail:

“Not that I give a shit, but re: any blowback that I’m not actually in the Pine Tree State and therefore not qualified to weigh in … bullshit. I’ll stack up my Maine knowledge and Portland chops with [Portland Press Herald executive editor Cliff] Schechtman, [managing editor Steve] Greenlee, [interactive editor Angie] Muhs, and anyone on the staff, and the proof is in the validity of the critique, which [you] would be the first to rip (and have when I’ve sucked).

“Plus, I’ve logged more years in the state and Portland than all of them combined.”

I’d say he hasn’t lost his edge.


In the BIN: Radio reports that the Federal Communications Commission has given final approval of the sale of the former Nassau Broadcasting radio stations in Maine to New Hampshire native Bill Binnie’s WBIN Media. That means Binnie now owns country powerhouse WTHT-FM in Portland and eight other stations in the state.


What is this Google of which you speak? A media observer took note of the Portland Press Herald’s extensive coverage of the Kennebunk prostitution case and wondered why no reporter has bothered to mention the extensive evidence available online. A Google search for “Lexi Wright/Maine,” one of those indicted for prostitution-related activities, turned up a number of seemingly relevant sites, the mildest of which features a nude photo of Wright taken by Mark Strong, another defendant in the case.


Correction of the week: From the Oct. 5 Portland Press Herald:

“A story on Page C9 of the Businss section Thursday misspelled Pika Energy.”

Spell check on the fritz?


Al Diamon can be emailed at

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