Little Change in Circulation Numbers at L.A. Newspapers
By MICHAEL THURESSON
Circulation levels at the Los Angeles Times and its largest competitors in the L.A. area mostly held steady for the six months ended March 31, according to unaudited figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, but several niche publications in the region showed wide fluctuations.
Daily circulation at the Times, which is owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co., fell about six-tenths of 1 percent, to an average of 979,549 daily subscribers for Monday through Saturday.
The Times tracks Monday-Wednesday and Thursday-Saturday figures separately. Monday-Wednesday circulation fell 1.5 percent to 945,053, while Thursday-Saturday circulation rose one-fifth of 1 percent to one million.
The Times said its daily circulation continued to be affected by single-copy and home delivery price increases that were implemented in 2001.
Sunday circulation held nearly steady at 1,396,045 copies, a gain of less than one-tenth of 1 percent. “Our readers have responded very favorably to the redesigned Sunday Calendar section,” John Puerner, publisher of the Times, said in a statement. “We are very pleased with our continuing momentum on Sunday and growth in Thursday to Saturday circulation.”
Most of the papers owned by William Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group Inc., including the Daily News of Los Angeles, the Pasadena Star-News and the Long Beach Press Telegram, saw little change. Their circulation levels have stabilized from a year ago, when they were still recovering from a price increase in March 2001.
The Daily News averaged 177,562 copies Monday through Friday, a gain of 394 readers from a year ago. The Star-News, Press Telegram, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Whittier Daily News -Telegram all posted small circulation gains.
“Any time you have a price increase, you have to go through a decline for a year,” said Jack Klunder, vice president of circulation at Los Angeles Newspaper Group, a unit of MediaNews Group.
Price increases have affected other major newspapers nationwide. The New York Times raised its price from 75 cents to $1 and saw a circulation decrease of 5.3 percent for the period. The New York Post cut its price to 25 cents from 50 cents in Sept. 2000, which helped drive its 10.2 percent gain for the period ended March 31.
Reporter makes gains
Meanwhile, average daily circulation at the Hollywood Reporter, the entertainment industry publication, jumped 9.8 percent from the year-ago period, to 25,494. The figures exclude the weekly version of the publication, which comes out each Tuesday and showed an even stronger gain of 19.2 percent, to 40,366.
The Reporter has been focusing on e-mail and online marketing campaigns that promote paid subscriptions, said Rick Wilkes, its director of marketing and promotions. Targeted e-mail blasts were especially key to the increase, he said.
By comparison, rival Daily Variety published each weekday showed a more modest gain of 2.4 percent, to 34,807 for the six-month period, according to Bob Conklin, vice president of circulation. The weekly version of the paper, which comes out on Mondays, showed a 4.7 percent circulation gain, to 35,904. (Variety’s figures haven’t yet been published by ABC.)
Conklin said Variety has been using “standard stuff” to stimulate circulation. “I don’t know what they could have done,” Conklin said, referring to the Reporter’s gains. “I’ll have to look at it.”
Other locally based papers showing circulation fluctuations included Investor’s Business Daily, whose circulation fell 11 percent, to 242,661. Monday through Saturday circulation at the Daily Breeze in Torrance fell by 6.4 percent, and at La Opinion, L.A.’s largest Spanish-language newspaper, it fell 2 percent.
The numbers represent a reversal for La Opinion, which is half owned by Tribune Co. A year ago, the paper posted a gain of nearly 10,000 readers by focusing on areas with strong Hispanic population growth, such as Santa Clarita, East Los Angeles and North Orange County.
Over the past year, the paper implemented price increases or eliminated delivery in outlying areas, such as Barstow and San Diego, causing overall circulation to decrease. “We are not unhappy about the decrease, as it was planned. Numbers in core L.A. areas were flat,” said Bob Karcher, chief operating officer at La Opinion.
Officials at the Daily Breeze and Investor’s Business Daily didn’t return calls.