U-T circulation drops from spring

Tops numbers reported a year ago

According to a report today, October 31, from the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations), U-T San Diego's average Sunday circulation dropped to 381,303 for the six months ended September 30 from 409,796 for the six months ended March 31. The figure released today was up from the year-ago number of 351,682.

Average Monday–Friday circulation dropped to 222,541 from 250,678 for the period ended March 31, but was up from 208,931 a year ago. These numbers include print editions, digital, and branded editions such as those under a different name or in a non-English language. This month, the U-T reported to the postal service that its average seven-day print edition — including both daily and Sunday — was 189,822.

The Alliance for Audited Media is no longer reporting circulation of the top 25 newspapers. On March 31, the U-T came in 24th, although the San Diego metro area is 17th largest in the U.S. with an estimated 2012 population of 3.177 million.

The Alliance figures are not as meaningful as they formerly were because a newspaper sold for a penny is counted as paid circulation. In its postal service report, the U-T reported that for the year ended Sept. 15, 2013, it distributed 7,055 daily and 10,156 Sunday, September 15 editions that were free or sold for a nominal amount.

Here is an example of how far print editions have fallen. In 1999, the U-T announced a campaign to raise its daily circulation to 400,000 and its Sunday circulation to 500,000. Digital was not a significant factor then. The campaign was not terribly ambitious, because daily print circulation was already 381,256 and Sunday was 453,666.

Comments

With no No County newspaper any longer, this paper is about it for the county. The population is in excess of 3 million, and they sell less than a quarter million each weekday. Oh the ownership claims that it reaches a million readers some time during a week, and it might be true, but I'd say only barely. Sunday, the banner day, it reaches a huge less-than-four hundred thousand. But even if the one million number is true, that's still only one in three potential readers by my count. How do the remaining two out of three get informed? I'm thinking I don't want to know the answer to that.

Media analysts prefer to look at household counts, not raw population, and the penetration based on that count would look much stronger. But not strong enough! In the past few days a couple agencies that wanted to "set the record straight" ran full page ads in the Mill. If that was their idea of how to get the word out to "everybody" in the county, it fell far short. I'd suppose a full page in the Mill is far less costly than it was ten or fifteen years ago, but there's a reason for that. The paper just doesn't reach a majority of readers or voters or spenders in the county now. Many probably never look at a copy and might even be surprised to know that it even exists.

While this malaise that infects the newspaper business is not limited to San Diego or the Mill, I still think that a paper that tried to report news and avoided propaganda could do better, and perhaps stop the decline and even show some growth. This paper isn't doing any of those things.

Visduh: Good points. Keep in mind, too, that the 381,000 Sunday circulation includes digital and branded editions. Print editions are far, far down from just a few years ago, as the information the U-T is required to provide the post office shows... an average190,000 daily for BOTH weekdays and Sundays. Fourteen years ago, daily was almost 400,000 and Sunday almost 500,000.

Worse, there are news-sharing arrangements among print/digital/TV/radio outfits. San Diegans are getting the same story no matter where they turn, unless they go to the Reader or some of the smaller, specialized publications.

Best, Don Bauder

The Mill often has the front page and those immediately following loaded with AP and NYT stories. So the reporting is the same as you would get if you took most major dailies in the US. There was a time, generally gone, when a large paper kept news bureaus around the country and world, and tried to avoid total reliance on syndicated services. How many do that now? Not many, I'd venture. Copley had such a service, but it was dismantled around the time the Illinois papers were sold off.

" Copley had such a service..." called CNS, which, in its heyday, had multiple bureaus worldwide, as you mentioned. In their book "The Secret History of the CIA", Joseph Trento and Dave Roman claimed that a Latin American CNS bureau was used by the CIA as a front, and that 23 of the Copley News Service employees were working for the CIA at the same time.

Duhbya: Yes, I have heard that rumor. It may have been true. During the student disturbances in the Vietnam war, Copley photographers were sent out to get photos of the protesters. Those pictures did not appear in the paper; they went right out the door to the FBI. Best, Don Bauder

Yes, and more than a few protesters were fellow employees. I wonder if photos of them were collected. I recall one skirmish at the foot of Broadway. There was a strong protest planned for that day and the climax was when fake blood was thrown on the front door of the Naval building on PCH. The SDPD was out in full force. One not so undercover cop was snapping photos furiously. He followed my brother and I for some time, trying to get our mugs on film, to no avail. Finally, I twirled and smilingly posed for him. Then I walked up to him and asked if I could get an 8X10 color glossy, to which he whipped out a pad and pen and said, "Sure, just give me your name and address and I'll make sure you get one." I responded "Just send it to Jim Copley, he'll get it to me." I remember the look on his face as if it were yesterday.

Duhbya: That is a wonderful story. One of the U-T's best reporters, now retired, was shown his FBI photo by the then-managing editor. The name of a U-T photographer was on the back of the photo. Best, Don Bauder

Duhbya: One of the U-T's top journalists joined the Union the same year I did, 1973. He had spent his career in international reporting. He suspected the Union was run by the CIA. He wasn't the only one on the staff who suspected that. Best, Don Bauder

Would that suspicion have included the Trib? If you arrived in '73, I assume you missed the downtown era. I always thought the building was modeled to resemble a warship, with the drab hues and the Cap'ns and Admirals running around. But it was a lot more entertaining than the Valley version.

Duhbya: I doubt that people thought the Trib was run by the CIA. I joined the Union in 1973 long enough to spend 2 or 3 months at the downtown building before we all moved to Mission Valley. Best, Don Bauder

Visduh: Yes, Copley had bureaus in Washington, Sacramento, L.A., Mexico City, Chicago, Springfield, Ill....one by one they shrank and folded. Best, Don Bauder

"How do the remaining two out of three get informed? I'm thinking I don't want to know the answer to that." -- I think you're right, we don't want to know. Probably a few seek out the news through online news sources (like we are doing now), probably a lot learn only what they see when they check Facebook.

Matt101: A lot of scholars are giving thought to the current dissemination of information. So many websites are aimed at specific markets (progressive, conservative, Tea Party conservative) that people are getting only what they want to hear. Best, Don Bauder

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