Circulation Results Highlight Challenges

Staff Reporter

Daily newspaper circulation across Los Angeles County was mixed for the six months ended March 31, as improvements in the economy were offset by several circulation challenges.

Those challenges include new rules adopted by the federal government that restrict telephone marketing to consumers, the effect of gasoline prices on independent carriers, and a soon-to-be adopted news rack ordinance in Los Angeles that will likely restrict distribution points.

"The ability to demonstrate circulation growth is becoming more difficult," said Jack Klunder, vice president in charge of circulation for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, the business unit overseeing William Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group Inc. chain of papers in the region, including the Daily News of Los Angeles.

Monday through Friday circulation for the Daily News fell nominally (316 copies) to 178,044, compared with the six-month period ended in September, according to preliminary figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Compared with the year-ago period, circulation rose by 0.27 percent (481 copies).

Sunday circulation rose by 530 copies from the year-ago period.

Two of MediaNews Group's other local properties, the Pasadena Star-News and Long Beach Press Telegram, saw marginal gains in circulation.

Within the next month, the Los Angeles City Council is expected to adopt regulations that will spell out the color, size and spacing requirements for news racks bolted to city sidewalks. Millions of dollars will be spent to repaint an estimated 30,000 racks the required ivy green color.

Also impacting newspapers locally are federal "do-not-call" rules designed to block unpopular marketing calls. Under the rules, all telemarketing companies are required to pay a fee and check the list before calling their targets making it tougher for papers to solicit subscriptions.

"You have to figure out how to replace that business because you can't call people anymore," Klunder said.

At the Los Angeles Times, owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co., Monday through Saturday circulation was 983,727 for the six-month period ended March 31, up 2.9 percent from an average of 955,211 (unaudited) for the six-month period ended Sept. 30, 2003. Compared with the year-ago period, the gain was 0.42 percent.

The Times' Sunday circulation saw a negligible year-over-year decline of 3,372 copies, to just shy of 1.392 million. It grew less than 1 percent when compared with the six-month period ended Sept. 30.

Spanish-language La Opinion, which is locked in a fierce newspaper war with a new entrant in the market, Hoy, saw circulation rise by 1,382 copies to 126,628 from the year-ago period, and by 1,936 from Sept. 30.

Circulation figures for the L.A. edition of Hoy, which is owned by Tribune and was launched in March after earlier debuts in New York and Chicago, won't become available until the six-month period ended Sept. 30.

Monica C. Lozano, president publisher and chief executive of La Opinion, said the newspaper increased its points of sale and placed more papers in racks for distribution.

La Opinion's classified advertising linage also is on the rise. Help wanted ads are up 40 percent on a year-over-year basis in March, with classifieds across the board showing a 15 percent rise. "This is a strong indicator of the health of the economy," she said.

Modest Growth

Most newspapers were little changed for the six months ended March 31.

Average Daily % change vs.

Newspaper Circulation March 2003

Los Angeles Times (M-Sat) 983,727 0.42%

Daily News (M-F) 178,044 0.27

La Opinion (M-F) 126,628 1.1

Long Beach Press Telegram (M-F) 96,967 0.4

Torrance Daily Breeze (M-Sat) 70,347 (4.85)

San Gabriel Valley Tribune (M-F) 48,920 0.13

Pasadena Star-News (M-F) 35,181 0.07

Investor's Business Daily (M-F) 221,256 (8.82)

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations

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