Amid reporting that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution may end daily print editions as early as next year, the paper sent out a reader survey Friday and published its annual statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation on Sunday.
The annual statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation is a required form related to postal rates. It may not be the ideal measure of circulation but gives information that can be compared to previous years.
Paid digital subscribers rose by 10,000 over last year while paid print distribution fell by 7,000.
But compared to its 2018 statement digital copies have only risen around 3,000 while total print and paid digital has fallen close to 40,000.
The AJC announced the closing of its own plant in 2021 and began outsourcing its printing to the Gainesville Times earlier this year.
Print subscribers pay more but print and distribution costs are also higher. The paper raised its monthly digital subscription price last May by about $3 but introductory rates or other discounts may impact digital revenue.
The survey asked readers about their initial reaction to the ending of a daily print edition and whether they’d be more or less likely to continue subscribing.
In questions comparing the AJC to other local news sources, Atlanta radio station WABE/NPR was an option but not Georgia Public Broadcasting/WRAS.
This could mean the AJC doesn’t consider GPB a viable competitor or an acknowledgement that it’s been in partnership with GPB since the state-run network’s controversial takeover of WRAS.
Other named local news rivals were Atlanta Voice and Atlanta Business Chronicle plus Cox affiliated WSB TV and radio. All other TV stations were lumped together.
Other newspapers were also combined. These would include community newspapers focused on suburbs and the Marietta Daily Journal which brands itself as “Metro Atlanta’s Only Conservative Editorial Voice.”
When separate editions, the morning Atlanta Constitution had a liberal editorial page while the afternoon Journal was conservative. But both were owned by Cox Enterprises which limited the viewpoints available, especially related to media issues.
The papers were combined into a single print edition in 2001, dropped political endorsements after 2004, and left the city of Atlanta for the more affluent northern suburbs in 2010.
All of Atlanta’s local broadcast TV stations with news operations now have apps and newsletters. An end to the AJC print may be an opportunity for them to expand their own written content and daily compilation of news, weather, and sports but it’s uncertain how committed they’d be without a daily print legacy to uphold.
Broadcast outlets are facing their own digital transitions and threats but are buoyed right now by political advertising.
The survey asked about social media accounts used to get local news and included Truth Social but not other new conservative social media platforms like Gettr or Parler.
Truth Social is associated with Donald Trump himself and has ties to Atlanta-based media personality Wes Moss. Moss hosts a radio show on WSB and was a financial columnist for the AJC until last month. There’s been no statement from the AJC as to why his column was dropped.
Moss’s bio now no longer mentions his AJC column, which he wrote for over a decade.
The reader survey also asked about favored formats and reasons for subscribing to a local news site, possible digital subscription bundles such as newsletters or podcasts, plus demographic questions, and political leanings.
This hints at a problem for legacy local newspapers and efforts to save local news: can any single newsroom serve a range of ideologies and incomes?
And do they merit saving more than building up under-represented outlets?
Should I drop my AJC subscription and shift to non-profits or even Patreons and Substacks? Or to things like reproductive health travel funds or aid to the uninsured?
The AJC’s legacy status gives it greater access to political and business insiders, but are outside voices more necessary now?