Early stats: LAT down 6.5% *

Later today the newspaper industry releases its latest bad news about circulation declines. An early peek by Banc of America Securities (yes, that's really how they spell it) found the LAT down 6.5% daily and 7.9% Sunday. The sneak peek didn't spot any greater drop-offs, but we'll know more when the actual numbers come out this afternoon. They will probably be posted first at Editor & Publisher.

* Afternoon update: E&P is calling today "Bloody Monday" for newspapers, with Tribune papers — especially the Baltimore Sun, down 11.5% daily — leading the way. Here, the Times indeed reports being down 6.5% in daily circulation and 7.9% on Sunday, while the Daily News was up a tad daily (.09%) and down a skosh (0.5%) on Sunday. Those percentages are what happened to average daily circulation during the six months between September 2004 and March 2005. Stay with me, though, because now it gets confusing. The actual total of average daily circulation for the period is 907,997 daily. Guess what? That's higher than in the previous report, when the average daily circulation for the year ending last September was 902,164 daily. I don't pretend to understand the arcane world of counting newspaper buyers, so I hope someone who gets it can explain what number we should use as the truest measure of LAT circulation. (By the way, the same comparison for Sunday circulation shows it was 1,292,274 then and 1,253,849 now.)

In any case, the Times explains the precipitous March-to-March drop in a press release that blames the fall on "transition to more targeted sales channels from a heavy reliance on telemarketing and the decision to deliberately reduce certain types of circulation, such as third-party bulk sales. The reality is that it takes two six-month reporting statements to cycle through these changes." Short E&P story on the Times.

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