*LAT circulation keeps falling

Daily is 573,000 for the six months ended Sept. 30, down more than 5 percent from the prior six-month period, and Sunday is 906,000, down more than 4 percent. As at other papers, the fall has been gradual - and yet those are stunning numbers, Back in the early 90s, the Times had a weekday circulation of 1.1 million and Sunday was bigger than that. Here are the top dailies:

1)The Wall Street Journal -- 2.1 million, down 21,600
2)USA Today -- 1.8 million, down 45,000
3)The New York Times -- 1.2 million, up 284,000 (impact of digital subscriptions)
4)NY Daily News -- 602,000
5)LAT -- 573,000, down 32,000

Rounding out the top 10: The San Jose Mercury News, NY Post, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Dallas Morning News. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this report is how papers with paywalls appear to be holding up - in some cases thriving. The NYT is an obvious example, but look at Newsday, which has the fourth-largest paid digital circulation of any U.S. paper, according to ABC. From Forbes:

Newsday's digital circulation represents more than a quarter of its total circulation of 404,542. When the paper first launched its paywall two years ago, it was widely criticized for its extremist approach, which essentially cuts Newsday's content off from anyone who wasn't a subscriber. Early on, it seemed to be a terrible mistake, with only 35 subscribers signing up in the first three months. Obviously, something has changed. That doesn't necessarily vindicate Cablevision's overall digital strategy; a metered system like the one the Times uses or a porous paywall like The Wall Street Journal's could be almost as effective at driving subscriptions while maximizing web traffic. But clearly even second-tier papers are finding a significant number of their readers will, in fact, pay for digital news.

Here's the ABC release.

*Update: Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici just added this:

Newsday's publisher's report, which breaks out its circulation in fine detail, hasn't been publicly released yet, but a source with access to the data informs me that only 935 of the paper's 112,486 average daily digital copies are true paid copies. The rest are "verified" copies, which the ABC counts toward total circulation under certain conditions. Cablevision offers Newsday.com access to its cable customers as a customer-retention perk. So while the price of their Newsday subscriptions may be built into their monthly cable bills, they're definitely not "paying" for Newsday.com in the same way as other newspaper's readers are asked to do.

Moral of the story: Paywalls remain a mysterious work in progress.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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