LAT says it's 869,819 (* or does it?)

I mentioned in the morning that pinning down newspaper circulation figures is a bear. Now this: Hours after the ABC (via Editor & Publisher) said that average daily circulation at the Times fell to 843,432, the Times issued a release saying the figure is actually 869,819. The anomaly is not explained. Oddly, the sources agree that their chosen figure reflects a drop of about 3.6% to 3.7%. In today's Times release, Publisher Jeff Johnson says the news is good because it wasn't as bad as when the LAT last disclosed circulation losses in March.

"Our September Publisher's Statement shows significant improvement compared with the March 2005 statement with average daily declines slowing, now trending about half the amount reported in March 2005," said Jeffrey M. Johnson, Los Angeles Times publisher. "Further evidence of our progress is demonstrated by our third-quarter circulation, which was up 0.5 percent Monday-Saturday and down 2.6 percent on Sunday.

"During the past six months we have renewed our focus on building individually paid copies that our advertisers have told us they value the most," said Johnson. "In addition, we have focused our acquisition efforts on building copies and readership toward the latter part of the week to mirror our readers' lifestyles and our advertisers' objectives. Friday circulation at 990,000 and Saturday circulation averaging more than 1 million, are more than 100,000 higher than the six-day average, and underscore our ability to deliver high-quality circulation on days of the week of highest value to our advertisers.

Average Sunday circulation for the six months ending Sept. 30 was 1,247,569, says the Times.

* Stop the presses!: In the Times' own story today on the circulation losses and Knight Ridder, staff writers Joseph Menn and James Rainey use the lower figure of 843,432. 1:30 am

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