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For many years, the Union-Tribune has revealed its circulation figures to employees in a monthly internal publication called "Inside Edition." But the December edition does not have those numbers. Since circulation has been inexorably declining for years, and the Union-Tribune is trying to sell itself, I wondered if there might be a reason those numbers were omitted. On Monday (Dec. 8) I sent an email to Sid Shapira, internal communications manager and editor of the publication, asking why the numbers were left out. He didn't respond. So today (Tues.), I called him. "How did you get my number?" he asked abruptly. I told him that one could get it by googling "sid shapira" +"union-tribune." He said, "I am not a spokesperson for the company." So I called Drew Schlosberg, community and public relations director, who, as far as I can remember, has never returned one of my calls. So why is the U-T not reporting circulation numbers? One reason may be that in 1999, daily circulation was 381,256. As of September of this year, it was down to 269,819, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. San Diego County is the nation's 17th largest metro area. But the U-T's circulation is 23rd among dailies. Its online usage is not even in the top 30.

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Comments

Shadow Dec. 9, 2008 @ 4:24 p.m.

You're more likely to get a call back from David himself than company man Drew...

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SanDiegan Dec. 9, 2008 @ 6:04 p.m.

Don: UT Management(sic) musta had a heck of a party when you decided to go 10-6. You are still one great reorter .....

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Don Bauder Dec. 9, 2008 @ 7:40 p.m.

Response to post #1: I've never had a call from Monaco or a $33 million yacht floating nearby. As I recall, I have tried to reach some banks on the secrecy-shrouded tax haven of Monaco, but never had much luck. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Dec. 9, 2008 @ 8:08 p.m.

Response to post #2: In early March of 2003, I told editor Karin Winner that I might be retiring that month. It depended on a kinky escrow we had on the house we were selling. (Our new house was almost complete.) She didn't get back to me until ten days later. I figured the management had a huge party in those ten days, going through cases of champagne. I told people that they bragged that the purchase and consumption of the champagne stimulated the San Diego economy by $1 billion. They were using the same kind of ripple effect arithmetic used in calculating how a subsidized stadium would stimulate the San Diego economy. Incidentally, with all those empty condos in the ballpark district, and the office buildings and hotels that haven't been built, whatever happened to all that stimulus? Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas Dec. 9, 2008 @ 8:21 p.m.

Hey, the Petco ballark was going to pay for itself with TOT's and property tax revenue.....remember....... (hmmmmm...where else have I heard that line....OH YEAH!!! Bushie said it about the Iraq war).

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Burwell Dec. 9, 2008 @ 11:01 p.m.

Playboy is going to feature a pictorial on the girls of Copley Press next March.

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JohnnyVegas Dec. 9, 2008 @ 11:15 p.m.

Playboy is going to feature a pictorial on the girls of Copley Press next March.

LOL...that'a pretty scary!

But Playboy is on the verge of BK too because they have the same problem with the internet that daily paper have. Christie Hefner just stepped down as CEO.

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Don Bauder Dec. 10, 2008 @ 8:49 a.m.

Response to post #5: Yes, Petco Park was to pay for itself: TOT, sales, and property tax receipts would pay for service on the debt. Back in 1998, 60 percent of the voters bought that claim. Don't be surprised if the establishment pulls out the same argument for a new Chargers stadium, even though it flopped completely on Petco Park, which is now draining city coffers. Gullibility is ubiquitous in San Diego. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Dec. 10, 2008 @ 8:53 a.m.

Response to post #6: Well, since Copley has laid off or bought out the older, competent employees, there are more young men and young ladies around to be Playboy of the Month or Playmate of the Month. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Dec. 10, 2008 @ 8:55 a.m.

Response to post #7: Yes, and founder Hugh Hefner, now in his 80s, won't permit any changes in Playboy magazine, as I understand it. The whole empire is falling apart. Playboy has been outporned. Best, Don Bauder

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HellcatCopley Dec. 10, 2008 @ 9:41 a.m.

"San Diego County is the nation's 17th largest metro area. But the U-T's circulation is 23rd among dailies. Its online usage is not even in the top 30."

This illustrates the fact that the damage done to the UT was not only by the internet. Other papers have far superior penetration of their markets. The UT's chief sin is that it is a dull, irrelevant read.

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Don Bauder Dec. 10, 2008 @ 12:37 p.m.

Response to post #11: You have an excellent point. There are many factors (ethnic, for example) for the underperformance, but the newspaper's dullness, its pro-establishment predictability, and its news slant have all contributed. Best,, Don Bauder

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Visduh Dec. 10, 2008 @ 4:49 p.m.

They probably reported the circulation figures when they could spin them as something to be proud of. But now, no amount of spin can paint this circulation decline as other than very alarming. A few days ago, the U-T ran an ad touting that its circulation figures indicate that "1.1 million people read the U-T every week." You brag about that? The county has about 3 million residents now. So, with a seven-day-a-week paper they are only reaching a bit more than a third of the residents.

Even counting children who cannot yet read, the chronically illiterate adults, those who neither speak nor read English, and those who are incarcerated, that's really poor. And all they are really claiming is that those 1.1 million read it once a week, not every day or nearly every day. I wonder how many read it every day, and read the whole thing. Maybe fewer than 100,000?

If so, that begins to explain why these papers are virtually worthless. Another question: if papers are folding right and left, what are presses worth? Pay you to dismantle them and haul them away?

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Don Bauder Dec. 10, 2008 @ 9:03 p.m.

Response to post #13: Yes, the claim of 1.1 million people reading the paper every week is pretty tepid touting when parsed. The county (the metro area, statistically) has a bit more than 1 million households. So a daily circulation of 270,000 is a pretty small percentage of households. Best, Don Bauder

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chargered Dec. 10, 2008 @ 9:23 p.m.

1.1 million doesn't seem that much. How do those numbers compare to the Reader or any other paper. I've heard channel 7 and others does have many viewers either. Can you tell us how the 1.1 million compares to others? Thanks.

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chargered Dec. 10, 2008 @ 9:34 p.m.

Disduh's number of 3 million people is the total population. Figure 25% or more of them are under 18 years old - doesn't that leave a little more than 2 million adults. If you factor in non-English speakers, maybe 1.1 million readers isn't so bad. That added quoted something called Scarboro - what is that, a company on the UT payroll or is it legit?

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Don Bauder Dec. 11, 2008 @ 7:06 a.m.

Response to post #15: The daily U-T reaches 27 percent of metro area households and below 10 percent of people. Those are not strong numbers. Penetration was double that a couple of decades ago. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Dec. 11, 2008 @ 7:18 a.m.

Response to post #16: Here are some key facts about San Diego County, which is the same as the official metro area. These are from 2000 census, some updated to 2006. A. 25.3 percent of population is under 18. B. 11.1 percent is over 65. C. County population grew by only 4.5 percent from 2000 to 2006; D. foreign born percentage 20.5; E. 10.9 percent below poverty level; F. Bachelor's degree or higher 29.5 percent; G. Homeownership rate 55.4 percent; H. Non-Hispanic white 51.7 percent, Hispanic 30.1 percent, black 5.5 percent. Best, Don Bauder

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concernedcitizen77 Dec. 11, 2008 @ 1:28 p.m.

Don, would you buy the UT if you had the $$$$ to burn?

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Don Bauder Dec. 11, 2008 @ 3:46 p.m.

Response to post #19: There are a lot of variables: 1. Is it cash flow positive -- even slightly? 2. What is the real estate worth? 3. Could I sell the real estate (the La Jolla and Mission Valley properties should be worth good money, even in this market) and keep the paper running with the proceeds from the sales, or borrowing against the properties? 4. Could I cut back or kill the print edition and try to survive with mainly or only an online edition? 5. If I kept the paper going, even with profits from real estate, how soon would I burn through that money I have to burn? Sorry I can't give you a straight answer -- just more questions. I would love to see the company's books. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Dec. 12, 2008 @ 12:11 p.m.

With all the fraud that is around today, even if you could see the U-T books, could you be confident they were not cooked?

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Don Bauder Dec. 12, 2008 @ 4:46 p.m.

Response to post #21: That's a good question, but it puts me on the spot: I know the company's chief financial officer and (in effect) the chief executive officer. I would say this: anybody buying ANY company these days should have forensic accountants go very carefully over the books. Best, Don Bauder

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chargered Dec. 14, 2008 @ 5:12 p.m.

I still wonder how many houses other mediums like Channel 7 or Channel 10 reach. I never watch the local news and rely on the web and newspapers. I don't think I'm alone. What's the comparison look like?

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Don Bauder Dec. 14, 2008 @ 7:39 p.m.

Response to post #23: Those data are available through outfits such as Nielsen. Because there are so many radio and TV stations, no one station would likely come close to U-T. What would be interesting is adding them all up and seeing if radio and TV surpass U-T. I have never done that. Best, Don Bauder

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chargered Dec. 15, 2008 @ 7:45 p.m.

Not sure why you would total them. Wouldn't you then need to total every newspaper, including the weekly rag we get in La Jolla for a comparison? Not sure where you'd place the Reader, CB and the Onion - newspapers or magazines?

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HellcatCopley Dec. 19, 2008 @ 11:52 a.m.

Don, what could "Inside Edition" possibly have to say at this point?? It traditionally has been the fount of "Isn't this place wonderful and aren't we lucky to work here" nonsense. Is this drivel still being spouted this late in the game? And did David pass out his annual Christmas Goose of a grocery coupon this year????

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Don Bauder Dec. 19, 2008 @ 7:50 p.m.

Response to post #25: Clearly, some statistical interpretations would have to be made. But that's why you hire statisticians: to work with data that have apples/oranges snags. Yes, you could total TV households versus all newspaper households, but you would have to make some assumptions along the way. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Dec. 19, 2008 @ 7:54 p.m.

Response to post #26: Yes, it's a typical fluffy house organ -- even fluffier than most. The circulation data were the only useful things in the publication. I have not heard if employees got their grocery gift certificates (known as the annual Christmas Goose) this year. Perhaps as a substitution, somebody ran around the building and goosed everybody. Best, Don Bauder

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