To be precise, the drop in Sunday circulation compared to last September is 6.3%, for the daily paper 5.6%. The daily circulation, once well over a million, is now 902,164. Publisher John Puerner blames the "do not call" law that cut into telemarketing sales and a decision to reduce certain less-proftable kinds of circulation. His bulletin to the staff (reprinted below) looks on the bright side and says the paper still reaches more households than "any other media outlet in the L.A. DMA." [Really, more than network TV?] A story in Editor & Publisher leads with the Times' "steep drop" and notes that the Chicago Tribune also suffered a smaller drop in circulation. Jack Fuller says in that story that his retirement as head of Tribune publishing is unrelated to the news.
Previously: Interesting 24 hours at Tribune
October 28, 2004
TO: Times Employees
FROM: John Puerner
SUBECT: September 2004 Circulation
Today we are announcing the Los Angeles Times circulation for the six months ended September 30, 2004 compared to the prior year. Average daily circulation was 902,164, a decline of 5.6 percent, and Sunday was 1,292,274, a decline of 6.3 percent, according to figures that The Times filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC). The news release that reports September 2004 circulation is posted on TimesLink.
Two business developments largely account for these declines. The primary factor was the impact of the national Do Not Call law on our telesales operations. Historically, The Times has been heavily dependent on telesales to drive subscriber growth. In our market, the Do Not Call law eliminated about 1.5 million -- about 27 percent of -- dialable records. In addition, we made a deliberate decision to reduce less profitable circulation, such as third party sponsored home delivery and single copy bulk sales.
These declines occurred as we're transitioning from a reliance on telesales to more targeted sales channels to generate new subscribers. We're investing heavily in database marketing systems and capabilities to improve our ability to grow readership and target higher quality circulation through direct mail and other efforts. We're also targeting specific geographic and audience segments where we have the highest potential to increase readership.
It's important to note that in spite of these declines, The Times remains the largest newspaper in California and the West with 2.4 million readers daily and 3.5 million on Sunday, according to Scarborough's most recent 2004 release. The Times still surpasses any other media outlet in the L.A. DMA in terms of the number of households reached.
Our 2005 Operating Plan focuses in great detail on new initiatives to grow audience and readership. We will review these initiatives with you after we have presented our plan to Tribune, and when we communicate the 2005 Operating Plan early in the new year.