Knight Ridder Results Mixed, but ‘Mercury News’ Feels Doldrums of Bay Area Economy

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By: Jennifer Saba

The latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations show that Knight Ridder’s papers showed a mix of gains and losses for the six-month period ending September 2004.

The San Jose Mercury News, the hometown paper of KR’s corporate headquarters, shed 3.2% of its daily circulation and fared a bit better for Sunday, with a decline of 1.5%. The Philadelphia Inquirer lost roughly 2% in daily copies but gained 0.1% in Sunday circulation. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram made gains in daily and Sunday circ, up 2.1% and 0.3% respectively. The Miami Herald gained 0.7% in daily copies and lost 0.7% in Sunday copies.

When reached yesterday in the late afternoon, Polk Laffoon, vice president of corporate relations for Knight Ridder, said the reason for the drop at the Mercury News. is that the San Jose market is still experiencing an economic slump. And the area, while expanding, is seeing a decrease in native English speakers. “A lot of it is economic, which has had a big impact on the Bay Area,” said Laffoon. “These are not robust times.”

Knight Ridder, along with other major newspapers companies, is taking a renewed interest in building home delivery and single-copy sales going forward. That means weeding out copies in the “other paid” column. This category includes employee copies, newspapers in education, and third-party sponsored copies.

The Mercury News was ranked in this fall’s Deutsche Bank circulation analysis as suffering the steppest declines in more-than-50% paid circ: a category that is catching more and more attention from advertisers. In the most recent report, about 10% of the Mercury News’ daily circulation was comprised of “other paid” while 13% consisted of circulation between 25% and 50% paid. In September 2003, it was about 8% “other paid” and 2% in the 25%-50% paid category.

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