Friday, July 22, 2005

John Carroll Blames Everyone But Himself For LA Times Circulation Collapse!

In today's Columbia Journalism Review (link courtesy of Romenesko), soon be to be former Editor of the Los Angeles Times John Carroll lists five reasons why the LA Times is losing readers faster than any other major newspaper in the country.

And guess what - content is not one of them! In fact, not a single one of the five reasons is anything he has control over!

Paul McLeary: One of the reasons the Los Angeles Times represents a puzzling -- even disturbing -- case study for the rest of us is the striking disparity between its journalistic performance (13 Pultizer prizes in five years) and its circulation performance (daily readership down 6.5 percent and Sunday readership down 7.9 percent in just the past 12 months). You must have felt at times like the gladiator who keeps vanquishing foes in the arena, yet every time he looks up at the bleachers, people are filing out the exits. As the guy who lived that paradox, do you have any insights into it to share?

John Carroll: I believe content had nothing to do with the circulation decline; if anything, the decline was mitigated by our content. Where does the blame lie? The list is long: 1. The scandal at Newsday, which prompted both our internal auditors and the Audit Bureau of Circulation to disallow certain types of sales that were previously considered legitimate. 2. The advent of the "do not call" list, which stymied our phone sales. 3. The reduction of the newspaper's cost base by more than $130 million annually, which cut the strength of marketing and promotion efforts, among others. 4. Issues on the business side that recently prompted the appointment of new directors of circulation and marketing. 5. And, of course, increased competition for readers' time. That's only a partial list.

Well, talk about the ultimate softball question! I mean, "...the gladiator who keeps vanquishing foes in the arena..." Excuse me while I visit my local vomitorium....

OK - that feels much better.

Nothing like a hard hitting journalist who asks the tough questions!

And, of course, no where in the interview is the subject even broached that the rapid decline in local content and the purging of Los Angeles voices from the paper might have anything to do with local readers fleeing in droves from the paper. Now the writer does bring up Mickey Kaus' complaint about the paper's increasingly stiff, East Coast writing style, but the concept that content might actually mean something to the readers of the LA Times, is completely ignored.

UPDATE! LAObserved also addresses the content, we don't need no stinkin' content claim.


Anonymous said...

Ha! You and Carroll sidestep or ignore one of the biggest, if not *the* biggest, factors behind the circulation problems at the Los Angeles Times. And that is its base of potential readership is smaller now than in the past.

I assume the paper's marketing and sales department at least is aware that census data indicate Los Angeles County today has fewer Anglo/white residents (meaning fewer of those type of people who, based on profiles of the typical, more lucrative subscriber, is the most likely to read a paper like the Times) than at any time since the 1940s.

As I said in my previous message, growing numbers of locals now are lower income and many of them barely speak English or are semi-literate, no matter their native language. Many of them also have a MTV generation mentality towards reading material, even more so when it comes to serious newspapers, magazines or books.

Anonymous said...

The LA Times is a terrible paper. That's all there really is to it.

JLS said...

I am an LA native and am embarrassed by the LA Times. It is of such poor quality that the market is certainly speaking as its readership shrinks. Add to that the trend away from print media (Web-based news is better, faster, cheaper) and the Times almost does not matter anymore. No one cares enough to mourn.

Cowboy, your blog is far more interesting than the Times. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

The earlier Anonymous is right -- the LAT is simply a terrible newspaper. No coverage of local news, inadequate coverage of national news, way too much Robert Hilburn and other "soft news". Kinsley has been a major disappointment. The Current section is embarrassing. In fact, I was so upset by the whole paper that I called to cancel my subscription. They cut the price down to about $1/week, though, so I decided to stick it out for a while longer. They must be hurting for subscribers.

Anonymous said...

If you think the LA paper is bad now, wait until you see it a few years from now. It's gonna get really bad, bad as in Daily-Breeze bad, bad as in La-Opinion or Press-Telegram bad.

To the staffers of the Times, abandon it now while the going still is good or semi-good.

Amy Alkon said...

Well, they declined to pick up my column again...which only runs in about 120 papers across the US and Canada (and beat Kinsley for first place in the recent LA Press Club awards) maybe it doesn't suck that much! No, it's not up to the quality of the columnists they run that wonderful Susan Spano -- whose Paris "blog" isn't anywhere near as good as the Paris blogs put out by 23-year-olds like La Coquette for free.