Friday, October 09, 2009

Business-Travel Slump Wallops USA Today

Business travel may be coming back a bit, but USA Today is reeling from the slump. The five-day-a-week paper says it lost 17 percent of its reported circulation, or 398,000 daily copies, between April and September. The paper now claims a total circulation of 1.88 million.

Here's the Editor & Publisher exclusive on the startling decline.

USA Today, which has always depended far more than other newspapers on discount so-called bulk sales for much of its circulation, says that its hotel distribution is off about 40 percent in the April-September period.

That's partly a result of the net decline in business travelers, but also partly the result of a decline in demand even for a newspaper that arrives free outside your door.

Last April, Marriott decided to stop delivering the paper for free to its hotel rooms, which formerly had accounted for 50,000 copies. I understand that decision was made after Marriott chairman Bill Marriott decided that too many USA Todays were being left untouched in hallways outside hotel-room doors. That looked untidy, the famously tidy Marriott boss said.

In a memo to staff, USA Today publisher Dave Hunke expressed strong faith in the strength of the newspaper and said its fortunes would rebound as travel continues to pick up. "We know these circulation declines are temporary and as the economy continues to recover and the travel industry rebounds, we know our circulation will rebound with it," he said.


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