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Nov. 26, 2008, 2:22 p.m.

More on Kindle: Seattle, San Jose doing well; Houston not so much

Martin Langeveld points out in the comments to my post on the New York Times’ Kindle subscribers that there is a way to put newspaper Kindle subscriptions in the context of all content purchased for the device.

The chart below shows all American newspapers with a Kindle edition. The first column of numbers is how subscriptions to that newspaper rank among all the things (mostly books) you can buy on the Kindle. For example, the New York Times is the 27th most popular thing Kindle users buy. The next column is the newspaper’s most recent print circulation totals, from October. (I couldn’t find Austin’s or the Investor’s Business Daily’s anywhere online — let me know if you know them.)

Now, these numbers are awfully opaque; there’s no way to know how many Kindle subscriptions 792nd place earns the San Francisco Chronicle. But there are a couple conclusions you can draw:

— There’s a significant dropoff in Kindle popularity after you get past the Times and the Journal; there’s a next tier that includes the Post, LA Times, and Tribune; and then a long way down before you get to the major metro papers. I suspect those dropoffs in Kindle subscriptions are steeper than their print counterparts are — the rich get richer, and everybody else struggles to define their value proposition.

Internet theorists will recognize this as the familiar power law/“long tail” effect — the idea that the ease of distribution online brings more users to a few (like the NYT) and flattens out the many (like the metros). Or to put it another way: If you can get any newspaper in the country on your Kindle, why not get The New York Times?

— There are some interesting anomalies. The Seattle Times substantially outsells the Houston Chronicle on Kindle despite having half the print circulation — I would imagine because Seattle has more early-adopter tech-types, the sort of people who would buy a Kindle at this stage. (Also, the Seattle P-I doesn’t seem to have a Kindle edition yet.) Philadelphia, Arizona, and Boston look to be underperformers, compared to their print circulation; San Jose, Atlanta, and Orange County are punching above their weight. (So is Austin, whose daily circ is somewhere in the 160Ks now, I think.)

POSTED     Nov. 26, 2008, 2:22 p.m.
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