Wednesday, November 09, 2005

LA Times Dueling Circulation Figures - Explained?

For those of you who have a life and have not followed the moving target of how many fewer newspapers the LA Times is selling this year than last year - and what percentage that drop has been... dropping... a recap!

1. Article appeared in Editor and Publisher saying that the LA Times had average circulation over a six month period of 843,432 and that was a decline of 6.5% from the previous year's six month average circulation. Another article in the same paper gave the same circulation figure, but said there was a decline of 3.79% and that 33,184 fewer papers had been sold on average than in the last year

2. Then other articles came out also saying the figure was 843,432, and also saying that the rate of decline was now 3.8%.

3. E & P correction after I talked to reporter:

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the Los Angeles Times' daily circulation decline to be 6.5%. The higher number arose from an erroneous comparison of earlier Monday-Saturday numbers to the paper's current Monday-Friday figure. The correct weekday circulation decline is 3.7%.

6. So now Editor & Publisher agrees in both articles that the WEEKDAY figures are - Los Angeles Times 843,432 -33,184 -3.79% or -3.7%.

7. Next LA Times Press release by Publisher:
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 7, 2005 For the six months ended Sept. 30, 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported a six-day Monday-Saturday average circulation of 869,819, a decline of 3.6 percent from the prior year.

8. LA Times News article published same day as press release:

The most recent circulation declines at the Mercury News, the Herald and the Inquirer came to a cumulative 3.7%. Among bigger papers, the Los Angeles Times' average weekday circulation fell 3.8% to 843,432 .

Ok - Now we're getting somewhere. It may be a deep, bottomless pit, filled with disgusting and slimmy creatures, but at least now there is beginning to be a there... there.

E & P and the LA Times News Department agrees that the WEEKDAY six month average is...843,432, i.e. Monday - Friday. The Publisher of the LA Times states that the Monday - Saturday average is....869, 919.

So now we know why this figure differs.

And in last September the LA Times gave a figure of 902,164 for its average Monday - Saturday six month circulation figure.

But that still leaves one question. Actually two. Since we are dealing with a duck (week day, i.e., Mon-Fri) and a mongoose (daily i.e., Mon-Sat) how come both the duck... and the mongoose have almost the rate of decline of... 3.7%? Well, actually... we have the figures of 3.6% for the six day week given by the LAT's press release but for the five day week we have... 3.8%, 3.79% and 3.7%. Close, but not exactly the same.

Secondly, if you subtract the LAT Mon- Sat numbers from last year to this year you get - a little over 32,000.

But... in the E & P site, a little over 33,000 is given as the numbers of readers lost when they are using the Mon-Fri number of 843,432 as the current circulation number.

Again, very close, but not exactly the same. So is it possible that the number of subscriptions lost in the past year and the percentage declines of each time period are almost... identical? That would, of course, mean that the LA Times is like the famous 'On-Horse Shay' - each part decaying at an equal rate so that one day - it will all just fall apart.

Coincidence? Check in tomorrow.

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