Circulation for The (Bergen) Record has dropped more than 81% since Gannett purchased the newspaper in 2016, a massive reduction in their audience and their influence in North Jersey, where more than 1.5 million people live in the region they serve, according to reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Weekday circulation of the old media chain is down from 136,074 to 25,312, with Sunday circulation dropping from 171,744 on Sundays to 31,311.
Despite the massive decline in the number of print newspapers sold over the last six years, the price of legal advertising for municipal and county governments mandated by an old state law remains the same even though their reach is substantially less.
The number of newspapers sold continues to decline, Gannett CEO Mike Reed said on a call with reporters last week to discuss earnings for the fourth quarter of 2022. Gannett has focused on digital subscriptions; the previous year, many of New Jersey’s Gannett-owned newspapers ended their Saturday editions.
Stock prices at Gannett have primarily mirrored the decline of The Record’s circulation. On the day the Borg family announced the sale of the Bergen Record, Gannett stock closed at $18.70 per share; the stock market opened today with the value of a share of Gannett stock at $3.04, an 84% decrease.
The national newspaper chain, which owns nine daily newspapers in New Jersey, showed a profitable fourth quarter in 2022 despite losing almost $96 million last year.
Profitability for the last three months of the year came after massive layoffs, benefits reductions, furloughs, retirement incentives, and leaving hundreds of open positions across the U.S. unfilled. The Record and other Gannett newspapers have seen their reporting force significantly depleted.
Of the 72 Bergen Record, Daily Record, and New Jersey Herald employees who signed on to a bid to unionize the three Gannett newspapers in 2021, 21 are no longer listed on their masthead, about 29%.