Monday, November 07, 2005

Los Angeles Times Subscribers Continue To Flee Paper In Record Numbers!

UPDATE! After I had a talk with the E & P reporter today - November 9th - the following correction was promptly printed:

* 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%.

Now this correction answers some - but not all - of my questions in the below post:

The circulation news was even worse than expected today for the Tribune Company - and even more so for the LA Times.

Monday's New FAS-FAX Report Brings More Circ Declines

By Jennifer Saba Published: November 07, 2005 8:14 AM ET

NEW YORK The March FAS-FAX set off landmines with reports of steep declines at many papers, most prominently some top Tribune Co. properties. The September numbers are not much more encouraging.Here are some specifics from the new FAS-FAX report -- released at 8 a.m. Monday -- compared to September 2004:

... The Los Angeles Times is down about 6.5% to 843,432 daily copies. On Sunday the paper reported a decrease of roughly 3.4% to 1,247,588 copies.

(The below link has a click through - and then you have to search for the story - sorry - will have better link to AP story later)

The Tribune chain lost more readers than any newpaper chain in the country, and the LA Times lost more readers than any newspaper at the Tribune - or almost anywhere in the country with a few exceptions like the San Francisco Chronicle. And San Francisco's decline was partially due to a one time occurrence:

The San Francisco Chronicle, published by Hearst Corp., posted a 16.4% tumble in circulation as the newspaper slashed back on less profitable, heavily discounted and giveaway circulation subsidized by advertisers.

Nationwide, the decline in newspaper readers is... increasing:

Newspaper Circulation Falls 2.6%,As More Readers Turn to Internet

Associated PressNovember 7, 2005 11:37 a.m.

NEW YORK -- Average weekday circulation at U.S. newspapers fell 2.6% in the six-month period ending in September, the latest sign of trouble in the newspaper business, an industry group reported Monday.

Sunday circulation also fell 3.1% at newspapers reporting to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, according to an analysis of the data by the Newspaper Association of America... In the previous six-month reporting period ending in March, weekday circulation fell 1.9% at U.S. daily newspapers and Sunday circulation fell 2.5%.

And the last report's drop had broken the previous record decline of nine years ago, and this drop now breaks that decline. So what about the other three of the four largest papers in the country?

Circulation at the country's three largest newspapers was relatively stable, but many others showed significant declines.

Gannett Co.'s USA Today, the largest-selling daily, slipped 0.6% from the same period a year ago to 2,296,335; The Wall Street Journal, published by Dow Jones; Co., fell 1.1% to 2,083,660; and the New York Times Co.'s flagship paper rose 0.5% to 1,126,190.

So as rapidly as the rest of the industry is losing readers, of all the major newspapers in the country, the LA Times continues to lose readers faster than any of them.


OK - it's back to who's got the right numbers again. The two linked articles above both show the LAT with a year-to-year 6.5% daily circulation decline and Drudge has, well -- look:

Average weekday circulation of America's 20 biggest newspapers for the six-month period ended Sept. 30, as reported Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. [The percentage changes are from the comparable year-ago period.]

1. USA Today, 2,296,335, down 0.59 percent
2. The Wall Street Journal, 2,083,660, down 1.10 percent
3. The New York Times, 1,126,190, up 0.46 percent
4. Los Angeles Times, 843,432, down 3.79 percent

May be a replay of the whole 'what base numbers are you using' debate? The stated circulation of a year ago - or the adjusted circulation after the 'phony' subscriptions had been removed. Next, someone has to figure out the real numbers of the heavily, heavily discounted subscription subscribers versus the people who actually pay for the paper, subscribers.


The debate (or... debates) is/are on; now Reuters also has the 3.8% decline figure for the LA Times and they have a person who states that this overall circulation decline is NOT the greatest overall decline:

Among the biggest newspapers, Monday through Friday circulation fell 1.1 percent at Dow Jones & Co. Inc'sWall Street Journal and 3.8 percent at the Tribune Co.'s (TRB.N) Los Angeles Times. Circulation at the New York Times Co.'s (NYT.N) namesake paper rose 0.4 percent.


But at the moment the declines appear to be accelerating -- a sign that suggests more consumers are getting their news from the Internet. Circulation fell 1.9 percent in the six months ending March 31 from the prior year.

John Murray, the NAA executive who studies circulation, could not give a final figure for circulation declines over the last 12 months. "But it would be safe to say this is not the worst in 20 years,'' he said on a conference call, pointing out that in 1991 annual circulation fell 2.6 percent.

But wait a second - aren't the other articles saying there HAS just been a 2.6% year circulation drop this year? My head is starting to hurt just thinking about his.

All these MSM sources are reporting on a story about themselves and they are all reporting from the same list of statistics - and yet... even then - they can not get their stories straight.

Meanwhile, they keep asking themselves - why is no one is reading them any more?


Kevin at LAOBSERVED tries to explain it all...

LAT circ down to 843,432

That was the average weekday circulation for the six months that ended September 30, according to Editor and Publisher. The report from the Audit Bureau of Circulation says it reflects a 3.79% drop from the same period last year.... Comparing circ numbers is notoriously difficult, but we do have this: Last September the LAT year-long figure was 902,164. The May 30 six-month level was 907,997.

So this September's average weekday LAT circulation for six months is 843,000 and that is 6.5% less than LAST September's average six month weekday LAT circulation. However, E & P says that by the way they calculate these things (and I assume thay have a valid methodology) - it is actually only a... 3.79% drop.

OK. My question is... since this is a story about newspapers that runs every six months... in newspapers... why can't newspapers figure out how to accurately cover a newspaper story about... newspapers... in newspapers?

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