March 11, 2005

NEWSPAPER CIRCULATION IS IN DECLINE, especially where “quality” circulation is concerned:

The Prudential Equity Group issued a biting 72-page report this morning on the state of circulation and found that both quality and quantity continue to decline.

Among other findings, the report said that “other paid” circulation was up 34% in the last reporting period, which it labled “troubling.”. . .

In the below-average category, the L.A. Times experienced an overall circulation decline of 5.6%. Full-paid home delivery was down 10.8%, much worse than the 2.4% national average, the report said. Home-delivered copies through third party sales decreased “significantly,” said the report.

The report noted a curious trend at the Times regarding other-paid circulation, calling the fluctuations and changes “peculiar.” As one category drops another gains, with the rough total remaining constant. “A 158% increase in discounted copies also signals to us more trouble with circulation and selling at the cover price,” the report said.

I cancelled my newspaper subscription — not out of pique, as is probably the case with many LAT subscribers, but because we weren’t reading it any more, and copies just piled up. They sent a guy to my house to offer me a free subscription. I said no, but last week they just started delivering copies again anyway. I thought it was just a mistake by our carrier, but now I wonder if it wasn’t a circulation-boosting strategy . . . .

More thoughts on the subject here. Is it a “media Enron?” I don’t know, but people sure seem to be doing their best to make the numbers look as good as possible.

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