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Union-Tribune circulation fell for the six months ended Sept. 30, according to data released this morning (Oct. 25) by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. North County Times was one of the few papers going up. According to Dow Jones, average weekday circulation for 635 U.S. dailies dropped 5% in the period. But the decline had been 8.7% for the six months ended March 31 and 11% through Sept. 30, 2009, so the rate of decline appears to be receding, although newspaper circulation has been dropping for decades. Sunday circulation was down 4.5% in the most recent period. The drop of the last six months is attributed to weak advertising and competition from digital technologies.

Union-Tribune Sunday circulation dropped to 286,518 from 309,573 for the same period of the prior year. Monday-Friday was 224,761 versus 242,693 a year earlier. North County Times Sunday circulation for the period ended last month was 71,290, up from 71,082 in a year ago. Monday-Friday was 69,991, up from the previous year's 69,560.

Orange County Register slipped to 265,343 from 288,174 Sunday and to 182,391 from 212,293 Monday-Friday a year earlier. Los Angeles Times dropped to 901,119 Sunday from 983,702 a year earlier and to 600,449 Monday-Friday from 657,467 for the same period a year earlier.

The Wall Street Journal remained the largest newspaper by weekday circulation with a 1.8% gain to 2.1 million copies from a year earlier. That includes online subscribers, who are charged. USA Today, which was displaced in first by the Journal last year, remained in second place with a 3.7% decline to 1.8 million.

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Comments

a2zresource Oct. 25, 2010 @ 8:52 a.m.

RE "Sunday circulation was down 4.5% in the most recent period. The drop of the last six months is attributed to weak advertising and competition from digital technologies":

For people looking for indicators as to trends in consumer confidence, this can't be a good sign.

For those of us who are not aware of this, the Sunday paper is stuffed with advertising from every major San Diego retail outlet that's still in business, and it usually contains the largest number of help-wanted classifieds for any day of the week.

While digital media advertising is increasing, the poorest of us have limited access to the highest-speed Internet connections (especially as public libraries are set to close) and if we're not scouring the Sunday paper for coupons and semi-skilled job openings, then this tends to support the view that unofficial unemployment/underemployment is a lot closer to 20-25% than it is to 10-12% here in San Diego.

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Ponzi Oct. 25, 2010 @ 11:50 a.m.

I’m reminded of a song with the lyrics… Slip sliding away...

9% drop in one year is almost double their contemporaries.

There are few job ads in the classifieds, even on Sunday. I feel sports fans and real estate shoppers boost the Sunday circulation.

Anyway, I see opportunity for a team that would create a separate sports only paper and website as well as a real estate, rental, home improvement and loan resources weekly.

Many people could care less about the national and local news, because they get it from TV or internet sources. People that stay on top of the news already have heard the story before the UT prints it.

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Don Bauder Oct. 25, 2010 @ 12:53 p.m.

Response to post #1: You make excellent points. In many respects, the big draw of the Sunday paper is the coupons. It's not the editorial product, unfortunately, to many buyers. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Oct. 25, 2010 @ 12:55 p.m.

Response to post #2: I'm sure the U-T has at least considered a stand-alone sports section, as well as a stand-along real estate section. Best, Don Bauder

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WhatGoesAround Oct. 25, 2010 @ 8:18 p.m.

Wow -- "400/500" -- those "hairy, audacious goals" for U-T circulation improvement seem even more outlandish nearly a decade later. I still believe that the Union-Tribune's and Copley's management primed themselves for catastrophe a couple of decades before the 2008-2009 free fall of the global economy.

Don, I think hyper-local and convergent media strategies are great for pubs like the SD Reader, but a disaster for a major metro daily. If the U-T had aggressively pursued a "hyper-global" investigative news strategy, especially with its relatively easy access to all of Asia and the Pacific Rim, they could have carved out an important niche in news reporting, perhaps even repurposed the Copley News Service. I have to say again -- what a waste of good, dedicated, talented people, and of invested capital!

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Don Bauder Oct. 25, 2010 @ 9:49 p.m.

Response to post #5: I believe I have discussed here earlier my own experience with market share. Around 1980, I wrote to Helen Copley that the combined market share of the Union and Tribune were quite low in comparison with papers in other comparable markets. Helen appreciated getting the statistics, as did Hubert Kaltenbach, president. But I was a pariah among top editorial management of the Union, who wanted me to shut up. I raised the point at a management getaway and could feel the darts coming my way. Then in the mid-to-late 1990s, when management announced the 400/500 goal to increase market share, a top editor came to me and said that my statements 15 years earlier had been "prescient." I could barely keep from laughing.

Now to your point: could a hyper-global Pacific Rim investigative news strategy have lifted the U-T and Copley News Service? Yes, such a strategy would have lifted the paper's and the news service's reputation AMONG JOURNALISTS. But among San Diego readers? I am not convinced, but am open to argument. Best, Don Bauder

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WhatGoesAround Oct. 26, 2010 @ 7:43 a.m.

Don, I believe I could make a reasonable case that readership and circulation increases would be possible with that strategy, but I can't spend the time on it right now. I also experienced the "darts" phenomenon when I outed myself as a less-than-enthusiastic supporter of editorial management during an in-house management consulting exercise.

What can you do? They hired talented individuals and then they did their best to silence and ignore them. The buck stopped with Helen and David, and they had the power to change the outcome, but probably not the vision.

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Don Bauder Oct. 26, 2010 @ 11:46 a.m.

Response to post #7: I vaguely remember the time that middle to lower editorial management was asked to rank top editorial management. Not one person gave top managers the top rating. We lower-ranking folks were all embarrassed; when filling out the questionnaires, we figured that SOMEBODY would give the brass the high rating. Maybe you can remember it better than I can. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Oct. 28, 2010 @ 11:58 a.m.

Many years ago, when the U-T had a virtual monopoly on the dissemination of news in the county, it squandered its advantage by offering a product that did not befit a city of this size. Many people who were long time, even lifetime, subscribers used to take its reporting and its editorials with little seriousness. Where it could have been a force for civic improvement and good governance, it sold out to the pro-growth-at-any-cost developer cabal, and looked for little dirt. "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" should have been its motto, instead of that Copley slogan. Now it pays the price, along with all papers that are seeing their circulation shrink as their ad revenue declines.

The retailers that use those preprinted supplements that are stuffed in the paper find them effective, but they are really best at reaching one's existing customers, not in getting new ones. That is because you have to look for the particular store's ad, and then study it. The ads that are in the paper itself jump out at you as you read the articles, and can attract some attention from those who aren't looking for ads. If a reader has never heard of Bed Bath & Beyond, it is unlikely that he or she will learn of it from the preprint. But have an ad jump off the page where she or he is reading about the governor's race, and then some awareness will be created.

So, now a major role of the newspaper is to deliver those ads that can also be delivered by mail or private carrier, and not for the news content. Sad state of affairs.

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Anon92107 Oct. 28, 2010 @ 12:30 p.m.

The U-T's editorial policy dedicated to maximizing larceny by political corruption in San Diego is a root cause of bankruptcy and recession in San Diego today.

Voting against U-T Ballot Recommendations has become the best way for honest citizens who believe in Democracy to overthrow U-T corruption of San Diego politics.

The U-T is destroying itself as well as San Diego with Nero Sanders orchestrating the continuous crashing and burning of San Diego just like he did during his 2007 Firestorms.

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Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2010 @ 1:14 p.m.

Response to post #9: That's a perceptive analysis. The Union-Tribune has always been on the side of the downtown real estate developers who run the town for several reasons, the main ones of which are: 1. They are advertisers; 2. Under Copley, they socialized with the Beautiful People whom the U-T brass socialized with; 3. Their politics are similar; 4. Both worship the military; 5. Both the developers and the U-T brass have contempt for anyone who does not share their views of growth-at-any-cost: environmentalists, those who favor slower or measured growth, those who oppose public subsidies for private enterprises (despite the newspaper's claim that it is conservative.) I am sorry to say that under the new management, any change has been imperceptible to slow, at best. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2010 @ 1:17 p.m.

Response to post #10: The U-T certainly turned a blind eye toward establishment larceny for many, many decades. I do not see much improvement, if any. Best, Don Bauder

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Founder Oct. 28, 2010 @ 2 p.m.

Reply #10 I share your view of $D's "DIM" future, unless you are Rich and or Well Connected! Most folks not in the above "Class" are like walking wounded or since we are close to Halloween, the "UNDEAD"! Everyone is hoping that things will get better but the longer there are no god paying jobs to be had the harder it will be for our Country to recover even part of what we lost!

The UT lost my interest many years ago, when it became a "pawn" for City Council Power. Anyone that was around at the time probably remembers all the pro Ra, Ra, Ra stuff that was dumped upon the UT's readers...

I feel for all the UT employees that worked hard but were up against first an aging owner that did not want to relinquish control and then a spoiled son that just wanted to dump the UT so he could go play Yachtsman and spend the family inheritance on himself!

The On-Line Reader has already taken over the City's discussion of "Current Events" because all the other outlets are too afraid of losing business to risk printing (no pun intended) anything that might alienate anyone!

Our City is now BUY friendly as never before, with those that have something to sell eager to "Make a Deal," because whose going to do anything about it? A perfect example is the latest $D "Financial Crackdown" by the City Auditor:

“In December 2009, an employee recycled scrap metal and received payments of $488.65 and $4,649.05. The scrap was salvaged from various City job sites. The employee received a check, cashed the check, withheld $16 which he reported was provided to the yard workers as a tip, and transferred $5,122 in cash to another employee who was the committee chairperson. The committee members utilized the proceeds from the sale of scrap metal to purchase the food, decorations, and raffle gifts for the banquet.”* BUT Nothing about Fiscal oversight or the spending of hundreds of Millions of Dollars on Buildings and the Guacamole Bowl!

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Founder Oct. 28, 2010 @ 2:15 p.m.

Reply #12

Here are 12 things that the dying UT could do, to get my business back: 1. Print Funnies that are funny and add a humor section! 2. Expand the Editorial section and feature PRO CON debate that runs several days if not the entire week, on important topics so that readers can read both sides of the issues and also add their comments to the larger discussion. 3. Print many more images of locals doing what locals do in and around SD! 4. Start an Ocean section, that expands coverage of interest to those that love the Ocean. 5. Add sections for Desert, Mountains and Baja. 6. Invite Guest editors, and give them FULL control of one SUNDAY/weekend issue a month! 7. Feature a different part of SD in each Sunday issue and make it complete, including who what where and when, in order to introduce that part of SD to the rest of the folks that live here. 8. Put reporters on the street and let them "report" on what's happening. 9. Put reporters on City Hall and let them "report" on what's happening. 10.Offer big bucks for whistle blowers and print their stories. 11.Add Haiku-A-Day to the daily news offering. 12.Add Rhyme-A-Day to the daily news offering

In short, start acting like a real newspaper, instead of a paid City Booster!

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Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2010 @ 9:24 p.m.

Response to post #13: The U-T is applauding the late-night, secretive scam to round up money for the Chargers stadium, although it is saying it doesn't approve of the end run around the public. The end justifies the means. More of the same from the U-T. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Oct. 28, 2010 @ 9:27 p.m.

Response to post #14: Trouble is, the reporters who are dispatched to city hall and to the streets to report what is REALLY happening will never believe that is their actual assignment. They will worry that they are being set up to being fired. Best, Don Bauder

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Founder Oct. 29, 2010 @ 9:26 a.m.

Reply #16 When their own Reporters can't trust their Editors & Owners to back them up, then "that" says it all about the problems at the UT and why it is DOOMED...

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Don Bauder Oct. 29, 2010 @ 11:46 a.m.

Response to post #17: For decades, one of the U-T's major problems has been that reporters who exposed any establishment shenanigans knew the editors and owners would not back them up. That's why the paper was so effete and dull. Best, Don Bauder

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Founder Oct. 29, 2010 @ 2:45 p.m.

Reply #18 Well said...

Being "Dull" was "out" many years ago, just like the UT!

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Don Bauder Oct. 29, 2010 @ 5:43 p.m.

Reply to post #19: What I find hilarious is that in the 1990s, the U-T launched a big push to improve its market share, but it never occurred to top management that editorial excitement and guts might help in the effort. The newspaper continued to punish any staffer who dared to challenge the establishment -- then couldn't figure out why the market share went down, not up. The publication simply lacked credibility with the average reader. Best, Don Bauder

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gekko Nov. 7, 2010 @ 7 p.m.

Don,

What ever happened in the Steve Kelley / Steve Breen lawsuit?

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a2zresource Nov. 7, 2010 @ 8:39 p.m.

RE "In many respects, the big draw of the Sunday paper is the coupons. It's not the editorial product, unfortunately, to many buyers":

I have to admit that reading the Sunday opinions (as part of one family that has had a subscription for generations) has started me on a living room rant that has led to more than several of my Reader blog posts... but my admitting to actually reading those opinion pieces and taking them seriously shows how naive and/or stunted I may be.

There seems to be a common theme in this comment thread of lost opportunities for true civic leadership at the U-T...

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pascal Nov. 10, 2010 @ 8:36 a.m.

I think one point has been missed here that may be the main driver behind the U-T's latest circulation losses. They themselves seem to be reducing it deliberately. In Platinum's effort to drive an ever-increasing profit margin, I've read where they've pared back circulation in remote areas due to its lack of ROI. And even worse, they seem to have made a concerted effort to significantly raise the price of the newspaper over the past year or so. We just received our latest quarterly bill, and the price of our subscription has gone up 20% in just three months! I haven't seen a corresponding increase in value to the paper to match that, and I'm sorry, but that new logo just isn't enough! They've just priced themselves beyond the value that they provide us anymore. So, after 34 years as subscribers, we've quit taking the U-T. Sad.

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