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Circulation data a mixed bag for U.S. newspapers

L.A. Times Publisher Eddy W. Hartenstein says the figures over a six-month period are the best Sunday results for the paper in eight years. They also mark its smallest daily decline in six years.

May 04, 2011|By Walter Hamilton and Shan Li, Los Angeles Times
  • Daily circulation fell at 17 of the nations top 24 newspapers, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. But of the top 22 papers with Sunday editions, circulation rose at 14. Above, newspapers for sale at Phillipe's restaurant in Los Angeles.
Daily circulation fell at 17 of the nations top 24 newspapers, according… (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles…)

The Los Angeles Times posted an increase in Sunday circulation for the six months that ended March 31, while daily circulation continued to decline.

Times Publisher Eddy W. Hartenstein said the figures were the best Sunday results in eight years. They also marked the smallest daily decline in six years.

In an email to staffers, Hartenstein credited improved promotion of local stories, implementation of new digital delivery platforms and enhanced programs to maintain and recruit readers.

For the six-month period, average Sunday circulation rose to 948,889 from 941,914 a year earlier. Average daily circulation was 605,243, compared with 616,604 a year earlier, the Audit Bureau of Circulations said in its report released Tuesday.

The bureau, which gathers the data industrywide, said comparisons between the two periods were imprecise because of adjustments it made in the way the data were measured.

The new formula relaxes the previous standards by allowing certain types of unpaid distribution to be counted as overall circulation, longtime industry analyst John Morton said. It also takes into account the increased number of advertising and editorial products that publishers have rolled out to accommodate changing reader habits.

"It's a way of trying to make the industry look better, but it's also a recognition that the industry has changed," Morton said.

The circulation numbers came two weeks after The Times won two Pulitzer Prizes, including the prestigious Public Service award for its coverage of a municipal pay scandal in the city of Bell.

"Providing Southern California with vital news and information remains our mission," Hartenstein said. "We are extremely proud of the numerous journalism awards we have received."

Other newspapers also saw higher Sunday numbers amid a decline in daily circulation.

Daily circulation fell at 17 of the nation's top 24 newspapers, according to the circulation bureau's figures. But of the top 22 papers with Sunday editions, circulation rose at 14.

The Wall Street Journal held its position as the nation's largest newspaper, with daily circulation of 2.1 million. It was followed by USA Today at 1.8 million and the New York Times with almost 917,000. The Los Angeles Times remained the country's fourth-largest paper.

In Southern California, daily circulation at the Orange County Register fell 7%, and Sunday circulation rose 2.7%. At the Daily News in the San Fernando Valley, circulation rose 4.9% on weekdays and 3.4% on Sundays.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram climbed 16% on weekdays and 0.2% on Sundays. The San Diego Union-Tribune had a circulation decline across the board, dropping 12.4% on weekdays and 4.7% on Sundays.

walter.hamilton@latimes.com

shan.li@latimes.com

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