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U.S., Florida newspapers continue to lose readers

Average weekday circulation drops 2.6 percent; Sunday circulation is down as well for six months ending in September.

By HELEN HUNTLEY
Published November 8, 2005


Newspaper circulation continues to drop in Florida and across the country, according to industry reports released Monday.

The Newspaper Association of America said its analysis of the latest numbers found average weekday circulation fell 2.6 percent, while Sunday circulation was down 3.1 percent for the six months ending in September.

The falloff is part of a long-term trend as time-pressed Americans increasingly rely on other sources such as the Internet and cable television for their news.

The St. Petersburg Times also experienced a drop, although maintaining its spot as Florida's largest daily, with an average circulation of 301,183, down 3.4 percent from the same period last year. On Sundays, Times circulation averaged 385,794, a 2.4 percent decline.

"It's a constant challenge to keep home-delivered subscribers on the books," Times circulation director Jerry Hill said.

He said Sunday numbers are improving and should look better next year, but "daily will continue to be a bit of a struggle."

Newspaper marketing efforts have felt a pinch from growth in the national do-not-call list and from changes in the way the Audit Bureau of Circulations counts newspapers distributed through third parties.

Do-not-call numbers have grown from 26 percent to 38 percent of all the numbers on the potential customer list for the Times ' circulation area, Hill said.

The Times also saw a decline in seasonal subscribers last winter that continued to affect results for the spring.

The Times, like many other newspapers, is communicating with readers in new forms, such as its Web site (www.sptimes.com) and tbt*, a free weekly newspaper designed to appeal to younger readers.

"If you put the Times and tbt* and the Web site together, our advertisers can reach more than 1-million on Sunday and 818,000 during the week," Times publisher Marty Petty said. "That's how we have to think."

The steepest drop among major Florida newspapers was at the Orlando Sentinel , which lost 11 percent of its daily circulation.

Sentinel officials said individually paid circulation was only off 2 percent, with a deliberate cutback in hotel distribution accounting for most of the decline.

"We changed our circulation strategy so we could focus on our core customers - home delivery and single-copy readers," said Avido Khahaifa, senior vice president of Orlando Sentinel Communications.

Circulation at the Tampa Tribune showed declines of less than 1 percent.

The New York Times reported daily circulation was up 0.5 percent, but most of the other large papers in the country reported drops. Circulation was down 0.6 percent at USA Today , 1.1 percent at the Wall Street Journal , 3.8 percent at the Los Angeles Times and 3.7 percent at the New York Daily News .

--Helen Huntley can be reached at hhuntley@sptimes.com or 727 893-8230.

[Last modified November 8, 2005, 09:12:33]


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