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U-T circulation continues decline

Numbers down in new report from Alliance for Audited Media

U-T San Diego circulation continues its downspiral, according to data released this morning (Oct. 28) by the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations).

Total average Sunday circulation for the six months ended September 30 was 334,723, down from 381,303 for the six months ended September 30 of last year. Average Monday-Friday circulation was 203,795, down from 222,541 for the six months ended September 31 of 2013 and from 212,746 for the six months ended March 31 of this year.

These data include digital and branded editions. That's why they appear up from what the U-T reported this month in its annual statement to the United States Postal Service. In that report, the seven-day average annual circulation, including Sunday, for the paper was 182,083, down from 189,822 in 2013. These postal service data relate to the print edition and don't include digital and branded circulation; they only count papers that were actually distributed, not simply printed.

On March 31 of this year, the Alliance for Audited Media reported circulation by day. In today's Alliance report, U-T was down every weekday except Friday. For the six months ended September 31 of this year, Monday circulation dropped to 183,456 from 196,062 in the spring six months; Tuesday was 177,885, down from 182,516; Wednesday was 181,017, down from 192,751, and Thursday was 229,481, down from 249,201. Friday was 247,140, up from 243,201.

The Alliance for Audited Media has made changes, and in today's report does not compare current data with figures from the previous year, as it formerly did. The Alliance recommends that no such comparisons be made. However, I am making comparisons with the six months ended September 30 of last year and the six months ended March 31 of this year, on the ground that whatever changes the Alliance made almost certainly favor the industry.

For example, earlier, the Alliance ruled that a newspaper sold for one penny counts as paid circulation. This permits a newspaper to sell a bundle of papers to, say, a church, for a penny each. The church then sells the paper to parishioners for the normal price and pockets the difference as contributions, permitting the paper to report bloated circulation. The U-T has employed this gimmick.

It is clear that the Alliance and the newspaper industry do not want the industry-wide circulation decline publicized. This is disappointing for an industry that theoretically pledges to disseminate facts.

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U-T San Diego circulation continues its downspiral, according to data released this morning (Oct. 28) by the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations).

Total average Sunday circulation for the six months ended September 30 was 334,723, down from 381,303 for the six months ended September 30 of last year. Average Monday-Friday circulation was 203,795, down from 222,541 for the six months ended September 31 of 2013 and from 212,746 for the six months ended March 31 of this year.

These data include digital and branded editions. That's why they appear up from what the U-T reported this month in its annual statement to the United States Postal Service. In that report, the seven-day average annual circulation, including Sunday, for the paper was 182,083, down from 189,822 in 2013. These postal service data relate to the print edition and don't include digital and branded circulation; they only count papers that were actually distributed, not simply printed.

On March 31 of this year, the Alliance for Audited Media reported circulation by day. In today's Alliance report, U-T was down every weekday except Friday. For the six months ended September 31 of this year, Monday circulation dropped to 183,456 from 196,062 in the spring six months; Tuesday was 177,885, down from 182,516; Wednesday was 181,017, down from 192,751, and Thursday was 229,481, down from 249,201. Friday was 247,140, up from 243,201.

The Alliance for Audited Media has made changes, and in today's report does not compare current data with figures from the previous year, as it formerly did. The Alliance recommends that no such comparisons be made. However, I am making comparisons with the six months ended September 30 of last year and the six months ended March 31 of this year, on the ground that whatever changes the Alliance made almost certainly favor the industry.

For example, earlier, the Alliance ruled that a newspaper sold for one penny counts as paid circulation. This permits a newspaper to sell a bundle of papers to, say, a church, for a penny each. The church then sells the paper to parishioners for the normal price and pockets the difference as contributions, permitting the paper to report bloated circulation. The U-T has employed this gimmick.

It is clear that the Alliance and the newspaper industry do not want the industry-wide circulation decline publicized. This is disappointing for an industry that theoretically pledges to disseminate facts.

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Comments
24

Hope is on the horizon with the opening of the proposed new fish market.

Oct. 28, 2014

MichaelValentine: 'There is also an explosion of the canary population. I was once told that when my column is placed at the bottom of a bird cage, it's a perfect cure for canary constipation. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 28, 2014

I called the declines reported six months ago "catastrophic". This continued decline continues the catastrophe. It is no wonder that the current product is so small, with modest reporting on local news. In fact, it's darned near miraculous that they do the job they do with the dinky staff now employed. It would be most interesting to know the full impact of the loss of want ads by the newspaper industry. There was the income side, and a well-read paper could and did charge high rates for them. But there's the circulation side of the coin, just how many papers were purchased by those needing to see the want ads. It was just more than job-seekers. Anyone looking for an auto would read all the relevant ads and do it daily. Then there were those who wanted to furnish an apartment or house, or buy a good musical instrument, or find a place to live. They needed those ads, and bought the paper to get them regularly. So, Craigslist has put a huge crimp in both sides of the want ad, and may be as responsible of papers folding as any other single factor.

We can all wonder just how much longer the Mill can continue as a 7-day a week paper. Something has to give, and soon.

Oct. 28, 2014

Viusduh: There are estimates on how much Craigslist has devastated daily papers, but I can't put my hands on them now. As you say, the loss of want ads hurts revenue from both the ad and circulation side. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 28, 2014

It now appears that the daily newspaper, as it existed through most of the 20 the century, was a carefully crafted balance. For starters it had that "Chinese Wall" between editorial and advertising that (supposedly) prevented advertisers from influencing the reported news. I doubt that the Wall was ever perfect, but in some papers it seemed to be at work. The advertising mainstay of a paper was the presence of many retailers who needed to get the word out about their wares, and their special promotions. The best-kept secret was probably the classified (want) ads that brought in both advertiser revenue and made the paper a must-have for many readers. Oh, and then we had the readers who came to depend upon the paper for news and for ads that helped them decide where/how to spend their hard-earned money. But, lo and behold, this machine actually got the readers to pay for their product! Wow. The advertisers paid to show their wares to the subscribers who in turn paid to get the paper so that they could read the ads. News? Well, that was the mortar that held the economic bricks in place and provided the legitimacy for the operation to exist. Without news, what did you have? In the 50's and 60's the shopper appeared that dispensed with the news part of the system. But those didn't put the daily paper in peril, at least not at first. And so we had this elegant combination of news gathering, advertising, and reader/consumers who needed the darned paper and paid for it. It worked so well for so long that it is hard to get used to the idea that the old model is now obsolete and destined for extinction. Sad.

Oct. 28, 2014

Visduh: The so-called "Chinese Wall" is greatly a fiction. I was with Business Week (now Bloomberg Business Week) from 1964 to 1973. Advertisers could get stories killed. That happened to me several times.The cover story was routinely a puff piece on an advertiser. Other stories were, too. This was so overt I could never figure out why more readers didn't realize it, although reader surveys showed a pretty good percentage was aware of it. The magazine got better in this regard in 1970, but not sufficiently better.

At the U-T, one electronics retailer was charged officially by a local law enforcement agency with cheating consumers (as I recall it was bait and switch). A good reporter in the business section wrote up the story, which was a matter of public record. The retailer called the editor and/or managing editor and said if the story ran, all advertising would be canceled. The story was killed. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 29, 2014

Don, this proves it's time to rename the Pope Doug's Editorial Board just exactly what they are "Board of Sycophants" (BS) just like Goebbels had when he destroyed German Democracy.

This time the BS boys are destroying American Democracy by intentionally destroying the Fourth Estate with Braindead Stupid (also BS) journalism that the republicans love because they hate the idea of an educated electorate that sees through their U-T propaganda of hate that uses the Der Stürmer manual of style.

Oct. 28, 2014

Anon92107: As I have been saying, the U-T's slanted news coverage does hurt circulation, but the biggest factors are the same cancers eating away at almost all metro dailies -- Craigslist, being too late with too little with the news, etc. etc. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 28, 2014

If you take into account that he combined the old North County Times with the UT then the decline is even worse.

Oct. 28, 2014

escomanaiac: Oh yes. You are right. The U-T bought about 85,000 of North County Times circulation and appears to have lost most of it. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 28, 2014

As we are all dancing in the line to the U-T's gravesite, I would like to speak in defense of the remaining excellent Watchdog and other reporters over there and about the U-T editor, Jeff Light, who seems to have been able to salvage good reporting in the U-T's news columns -- even with severe space limitations for those stories.

I applaud Don Bauder's accurately chronicling the U-T's continuing slide in circulation. But there is a big qualitative difference between U-T Editor Light and his predecessors which a lot of Reader readers do not seem to appreciate -- e.g. the crack about "Der Sturmer manual of style."

It's as if that critic reads only the cockamamie right-wing editorials ordered up by Papa Doug and nothing else. There remains a beating heart over at the U-T and I personally hope it can be salvaged with new ownership that works to make the daily print newspaper business viable while scrupulously keeping its hands off editorial direction.

Oct. 28, 2014

monaghan: Agreed. There are some good reporters at the U-T. However, from the outset they were given orders to be propagandists, not reporters, on such topics as business, military, and Chargers stadium coverage. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 28, 2014

monaghan, I accept what you say and also hope the Manchester/GOP oligarchy control over the U-T is ended immediately because it is totally unacceptable if American Democracy is going to survive.

In the meantime, any journalist with self-respect and integrity must resign to maintain their self-respect and integrity.

You have to choose sides and do what is right just like the signers of the Declaration of Independence who risked their lives did.

We must not allow the Manchesters, Murdochs, Kock Bros, Wal-Mart billionaires and other oligarchs to destroy the democracy that our founders built and millions of heroes and patriots sacrificed their lives to maintain.

Oct. 28, 2014

Anon 92107 must be a civil servant pensioner or have a trust fund to urge all remaining U-T reporters to resign to salvage their good names. Anon forgets they are people with real lives and families to support and, as professional journalists, they may hope to continue to be employed under a new regime. And also, the signers of the Declaration of Independence were all landed gentry. Take a look at Mt. Vernon sometime: it's major view property.

Oct. 28, 2014

monaghan, by coincidence regarding our Founders, Michael Hiltzik wrote a column in the LATtimes this morning "U.S. income inequality is bad, but wealth inequality is a bigger problem" that discusses Thomas Jefferson's thoughts on this subject, very interesting relative to what you said. http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-us-income-inequality-is-bad-20141024-column.html

Oct. 29, 2014

Anon92107: That is a good piece in the L.A. Times. You may have noticed that when I discuss inequality, I talk about both income and wealth inequality.

One thing that hasn't been discussed enough is that a factor exacerbating wealth and income inequality is Federal Reserve policy. As long as the Fed keeps short rates almost at zero and long rates low historically, the stock market goes up. The economy has been very weak since early 2009 but stocks have soared because of this ocean of liquidity caused by the inordinately low rates. This widens the wealth gap, because stocks are generally held by the richest, and the poor and middle class still rely on bank savings deposits, which have an abysmal return. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 29, 2014

monaghan: As I mentioned, reporters and columnists at the U-T have to consider their own economic situations -- particularly difficult in a metro area like San Diego, with a very high cost of living and not very high salaries in the media, including the U-T. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 29, 2014

Anon92107: Trouble is, a self-respecting journalist who decides to resign usually faces two career choices: advertising or public relations (maybe lobbying). So it becomes leaving a part-time propagandist position to a full-time one. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 28, 2014

Interesting reality check Don, it appears that what you are reporting is the fact that we have already returned to the Ancient Athenian days of sophists and oligarchs.

And the Manchesters, Murdochs, Kock Bros and Wal-Mart billionaires have already overthrown We The People American Democracy.

Oct. 29, 2014

Anon92107: The Supreme Court has definitely given American plutocrats the ability to buy the political system. And they are doing it. Remember, though, that some of the plutocrats line the Democrats' pockets. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 29, 2014

Yes Don, you are pointing out the ultimate reality check, that democrats are just as responsible for the decline and fall of American Democracy and the American Way of Life as the republicans.

The ultimate fact of life today is that we keep proving that Homo sapiens brains, especially male brains, have not evolved far enough to be any better than Pan troglodytes when it comes to survival of the species, and we are far more self-destructive than any species on earth.

Practices of greed and corruption by the leaders of all of our social, political, economic, religious, scientific and educational institutions have put us on an increasingly fast track to hell on earth.

Oct. 30, 2014

Anon92107: I agree that since the 1980s, greed has been more deeply inculcated in American society than at any time since the 1920s, and in the prior Robber Baron days. Both of those periods ended ignominiously. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 30, 2014

Jim Day: That variation on an old joke has whiskers, because newspapers are no longer black and white. But it's a trenchant observation, at least in part. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 28, 2014

San Diego Highwayman: It appears to have more advertising, but that is just relative. It has far less news content, and also less advertising. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 28, 2014

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