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Union-Tribune Monday-Friday paid circulation dropped to 249,630 for the six months ended March 31, down from 261,235 for same period of 2009, according Audit Bureau of Circulations data released this morning (April 26). U-T Sunday circulation dropped to 310,869 from 330,848. Competing dailies dropped, too. The Monday-Friday Los Angeles Times dropped sharply to 616,606 from 723,181 and Sunday to 941,914 from 1,019,386. The North County Times Monday-Friday declined to 71,684 from 78,181. Sunday dropped to 70,791 from 79,067.

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paul April 26, 2010 @ 9:17 a.m.

Don, it always seemed to me that newspapers mostly gave away their product to boost circulation to sell advertising. Do you know what the cost is to physically typeset, print and deliver a paper? Is there much (or any) net between that and the delivery price for a paper?

I understand that papers took a huge hit from losing want ads (a hit they deserved to take, in my opinion), but it has always seemed to me that the rest of their model should work even better online then it does in print. They can tailor ads to the content of the article being read and to the history of the reader, which is much more selective and worth more to the advertiser.

There is a ton of advertising dollars available such that the UT ought to be available online for free with a full compliment of reporters to bring us the same high level of quality we have come to expect (tongue planted firmly in cheek). The fact that they are failing is a sign that they should be failing since they are so completely out of touch with the society on which they are supposed to be reporting.


a2zresource April 26, 2010 @ 10:47 a.m.

I will always subscribe, for without the morning paper at least four times a week, there is nothing to line the rabbit hutch with.


Don Bauder April 26, 2010 @ 11:35 a.m.

Response to post #1: The ABC report only covers the print edition. Its circulation continues to fall. Nationwide, papers were down something like 8.7%. U-T was down about half that. In my opinion, these numbers aren't as important as they once were. If a publisher gets a penny for a paper, it can count it as paid circulation. Newspapers are offering all kinds of deals to certain readers, but not to others. The point is that newspapers in print may have only ten or twenty years to go, unless the iPad and other similar devices pull them out. Smart papers are emphasizing the online editions. The U-T is doing this. You are correct: the U-T is still out of touch with reality. Despite the change of ownership, a San Diegan still cannot trust what the U-T says about Mayor Sanders, the downtown establishment that has him dancing on a string, etc. If you want to know what is really going on in San Diego politics, and in the establishment, you won't get the straight story from the U-T or any of the mainstream media. That's fine with us at the Reader. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 26, 2010 @ 11:39 a.m.

Response to post #2: I was told one time that the paper I was writing for fit perfectly in the bottom of bird cages. When the mug in my column was pointing upward, a bunch of canaries were miraculously cured of constipation. Best, Don Bauder


pascal April 26, 2010 @ 12:41 p.m.

Don, I'm curious why you think the U-T did better by "about half" than the average "top 25" newspaper did? I checked the list, and it looked like only 3 of the top 25 newspapers across the country performed better that the U-T did. In your opinion, is this more market-driven (San Diego versus other markets) or is the U-T itself doing some good things that other papers aren't yet?


Don Bauder April 26, 2010 @ 2:42 p.m.

Response to post #5: What I meant to say, and believe I did say, was that the U-T's decline of 4.45% is about half the decline of the industry, 8.7%. So the U-T did better then the other large metro dailies. (This is in post #3, in response to post #1.) It's hard to say why the U-T did better. It may have discounted circulation prices more heavily. Its content may be attracting more. Its stress on local news may be helping. Still, it's 23rd among dailies. San Diego is the 17th largest market. Take away the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and San Diego would be 21st -- not too good for the 17th largest market. Best, Don Bauder


pascal April 26, 2010 @ 5:10 p.m.

Yes, I did read your post #3 correctly, thanks. I won't get into the "rankings versus market share" statistical debate again, we've been around that bend before! :-)


Don Bauder April 26, 2010 @ 5:50 p.m.

Response to post #7: Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, when I was trying to get Union and Tribune management to recognize that the combined market share of the two papers was low by comparison with market shares in other cities, I always noted that there are a lot of factors. For example, Eastern cities tend to have higher newspaper readership. I think the major factor is that so many commuters ride to the city's center either by train or transit and read the paper. And maybe the newspaper reading habit is more inculcated in the Eastern culture. Ethnic mixes are a factor, too. And newspapers are increasingly dropping subscriptions in remote areas because advertisers don't want to pay for that far-away circulation. And there is always the hanky-panky: puffing up circulation through Newspapers in Education and deliveries that are paid for by advertisers. It's not a simple topic. Best, Don Bauder


a2zresource April 26, 2010 @ 6:28 p.m.

RE #4:

I have never used your photograph to stimulate members of lesser species, no way, no how. I was taught to respect the wisdom of my elders...


Don Bauder April 26, 2010 @ 10:15 p.m.

Response to post #9: Yes, admirable and honorable, but look at all those canaries that may have died of constipation. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh April 27, 2010 @ 11:56 a.m.

Doublespeak is alive and well at the U-T. Today's edition carries a story by Dean Calbreath reporting circulation "improvement" at the U-T. Say what? Yep, improvement. If you read far enough into the story, Calbreath reports that circulation rose by about 3% between September and March. I wonder how Dean would have written the report if he had not been sharply constrained by his editor's desire to put the maximum possible favorable spin on the story. In it, he quotes "Paul Bridwell, chief restructuring officer" of the U-T. I didn't remember that the paper had an exec with that title. Only in the final paragraph of the piece does Dean mention that year-to-year circulation is off by more than 4%.

Does this short term boost of circulation mean that things have bottomed out? I doubt it. They've been pushing very hard to get subscribers, and are offering some really cut rates, as reported in this blog and comments in recent weeks and months. THAT'S what has the circulation showing an uptick.


Don Bauder April 27, 2010 @ 5:11 p.m.

Response to post #11: I saw that this morning and couldn't figure out how he had reached the conclusion that circulation was up. Given some time, I am sure I can noodle out how the comparisons came out that way. He must have been comparing the most recent data with some other data set -- not the numbers given out yesterday by ABC. I really don't have the time to figure out what he did. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh April 27, 2010 @ 7:26 p.m.

The article was, to me, ragged. I question if Dean's heart was in it. He's usually an honest reporter and writer. That thing looked hastily concocted, and didn't reveal much. And its references were weak. As in, where did he get a Sept. 30 circulation figure? He pointed out that several other big dailies also had similar 6 month gains, but didn't 'splain the source of the circulation figures.

If this sort of stuff is what we can expect from the "restructured" U-T, we can all look for a better source of real news, The Weekly Reader. (That is the newspaper, sort of, that is sent to elementary schools.)


Don Bauder April 27, 2010 @ 9:02 p.m.

Response to post #13: The Voice had something with the same message: U-T circulation had gone up. Don't know where U-T or Voice got those numbers, but maybe they scratched them out of prior ABC data -- like comparing six months ended March '10 with six months ended September '09. That would be apples to oranges. ABC compared six months ended March '10 with six months ended March '09; that's proper. The circulation declined under that comparison -- but not by as much as most dailies did. Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard April 29, 2010 @ 2:49 p.m.

The UT needs to grab younger readers. I would try writing sports in the language of the players. Perhaps replace some of the tiny doodles of the comic pages with the slick ink work of modern graphic novelists. I would do collectable full pages for the Comic Con.

Newspapers must attract younger readers, those that spend $10 on comic books and sell out Harry Potter. The young read, but not newspapers. They will pay more for better writing and drawing, but won't read the boring for free.

I'm with them.


Don Bauder April 29, 2010 @ 4 p.m.

Response to post #15: Yeah, but the young think that the Goldman Sachs imbroglio, the Greek debt crisis, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the fact that states and municipalities are technically insolvent are booooooring. So how can you give them what they want and still sleep at night? Best, Don Bauder


Psycholizard May 1, 2010 @ 2:21 p.m.

I read the comics first, as an eight year old, then the sports page as a teenager. Newspapers helped me learn to read, and enticing children to read is public service, even if what they read is childish. The newspaper should strive to attract the illiterate, whether foreign or young, by visual images, and simple captions, this isn't pandering, it is education.

Comics and sports have taken a nose dive in quality since the sixties. The comics now are thumb sized scribbles, the sports page is nothing but drugs and money, I don't think the writers even watch the game anymore.


Don Bauder May 1, 2010 @ 4:44 p.m.

Response to post #17: Long, long ago -- when I was in high school and early college -- I wrote sports. You would be amazed at what you can do with a baseball scorecard after the game. Ditto basketball. Best, Don Bauder


gekko May 2, 2010 @ 2:02 p.m.

Don: When do you think the U-T will do away with the printed edition and be available online only?



Psycholizard May 2, 2010 @ 2:03 p.m.

A writer with imagination is never at a loss for words, the trouble is that the sports coverage is dull and businesslike. Sports were far more crooked and shabby in the sixties than they are today, players are now far more serious and dedicated, a look at their developed physiques will tell you this. Sportswriters treated the drunks of sixties sports as heroes, while the super fit modern athlete is suspected of drug abuse.

Sports is entertainment, sports reporting shouldn't be depressing. These kids work hard, spread the word.


gekko May 2, 2010 @ 2:14 p.m.

Response to #20

The Sports section is the most widely read section of the paper. The U-T should put most of its effort to improve the paper into the Sports section. I like columnists Nick Canepa and Tim Sullivan. Kevin Acee is a great football beat writer. In my opinion, the best Charger beat writer the U-T ever had was Clark Judge of the Tribune in the 1980's and early 1990's.


Don Bauder May 2, 2010 @ 7:49 p.m.

Response to post #19: Maybe 10 years or so, maybe a generation. Other dailies would be doing the same thing. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 2, 2010 @ 7:52 p.m.

Response to post #20: The sports section is very well read. That's true of other dailies, too. Best, Don Bauder


MsGrant May 2, 2010 @ 9:13 p.m.

Women read the paper as well. Sports is not our first choice of sections. And do not say "well, you have Passages" or whatever the hell they call the section that hosts the comics. The comics are the only reason I crack that section. Like sports, there is no women's only section of the UT and their never will be. I have written letters to complain about the sex ads for men in the business section. Like women never read it. Think they ever once printed one of my letters? I have had many printed that did not involve the UT's sexism. I could write a book about the ones that did.


paul May 2, 2010 @ 9:25 p.m.

Response to #18:

Don, I remember an interview with Reagan in which he talked about calling baseball games live on the radio based on telegraph messages. He once got a message that said the wire was down just after he said a batter had stepped up to the plate, so he just ad-libbed and described at length a long series of foul balls. When the telegraph finally came in, it said the batter hit into some routine out on the first pitch!


Don Bauder May 3, 2010 @ 8:36 a.m.

Response to post #24: While the Currents section is not specifically aimed at women, they would be natural readers. I think it is an insult to women to say they would be more interested in the comics. I think macho men are probably the big readers of comics. There are no doubt stats on who reads the comics. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 3, 2010 @ 8:37 a.m.

Response to post #25: That's why he was a natural politician. Best, Don Bauder


Twister May 3, 2010 @ 8:54 p.m.

So, newspapers are a niche market that can't be all things to all people. That's NEWS?

What sells best, pandering or the kind of hard-driving, relevant journalism that only appears here and there. ORIGINAL, RELEVANT stuff that nobody can get anywhere else AS CONVENIENTLY.

So, how's the Reader doing? Oh, yeah, nobody makes it easy to stay up to date on issues. Once a "story" has lost its "legs," forget it. Now if the best of the Internet (bloggers converted to supporters/informers/chaser-stringers, PAID according to their worth) were merged with the best of professional journalists . . . oh, why am I bothering?

Interns tasked with screening simply haven't the experience and the savvy to separate the wheat from the chaff, and impulsive screen OUT what is really STIMULATING, a la their political-correctness, me-generationistic, narrow laziness. Even the bright ones simply don't have the street-savvy, etc.

And look at the present circulation and the present population . . .


Don Bauder May 4, 2010 @ 6:52 a.m.

Response to post #28: Definitely, newspapers are losing market share. That's been true since the 1950s. Question: do people read papers for the editorial content or the ads? Some papers are save money on editorial content deliberately because they figure they will get the ads. This discussion should at least partly focus on the iPad. Will it rescue newspapers, magazines and books? I played with one yesterday for the first time. It's impressive. Best, Don Bauder


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