By: Mark Fitzgerald
Latest ABC FAS-FAX shows circulations still sensitive to economy
WHILE NEWSPAPERS CELEBRATE the multiplying signs of industry recovery, the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX report shows circulations remain acutely sensitive to economic uncertainty.
Daily circulations continued to fall at papers in California and New England, where economic recovery has been slow.
And readers demonstrated again that they remain remarkably price-sensitive.
The latest FAS-FAX?reporting unaudited results for the six-month period ended March 31, 1993?sent
a decidedly mixed message about circulation.
Amid some healthy gains, there were some distressing?and continuing?losses.
The firming of circulation numbers evident in last fall’s FAS-FAX seems less certain this time around.
Among the 25 biggest daily papers, for instance, 14 suffered circulation losses compared with the same period in 1992. Results were somewhat better on Sundays.
An even dozen papers suffered losses, but these shortfalls were generally modest and were outweighed by several substantial individual gains.
Daily circulation declines were similarly modest, except for two notable exceptions.
Six months after instituting a cover price increase that was not matched by rival papers, the Chicago Tribune showed a loss of 41,834 compared with the same period last year. It reported its daily circulation as 691,941.
In a statement, the Tribune blamed most of the loss on the cover price increase from 35? to 50?, which it introduced Sept. 28. Home-delivery prices also increased, though by a lower amount.
The Chicago Sun-Times, which kept its newsstand price at 35?, was a clear beneficiary, increasing 22,499 to 553,355 daily. Since last September, the Sun-Times has hammered away at the Tribune increase in an aggressive advertising and promotional campaign.
On Sundays, the dominant Tribune was down 15,433 to 1,117,816, while the Sun-Times increased 1,831 to 549,038.
Another paper showing sharp losses was the New York Post, for which the six-month reporting period was a time of management and ownership chaos.
The gains the feisty tabloid realized during the long strike at the New York Daily News have virtually disappeared. The Post reported its daily circulation as 427,319, a loss over the year of 43,668.
For its part, the Daily News reported its circulation flattening out somewhat after its dramatic rebound from the bitter strike.
Daily circulation was down 11,995 to 769,801. On Sundays the paper showed a decline of 5,641 to 977,599.
The third New York area tabloid, Newsday, was down 3,660 weekdays to 762,043 and up on Sundays, 4,194 to 851,685. The FAS-FAX results combine the paper’s traditional Long Island circulation with sales from New York Newsday, which circulates in the city.
Only the broadsheet New York Times enjoyed an unalloyed success: daily circulation jumped 34,247 to 1,230,461, while Sunday sales were up 39,426 to 1,812,458.
The biggest daily winner, however, was USA Today, which reported its Monday through Thursday circulation as 1,632,345, a leap of 91,647 from the year before.
If the separately reported Friday edition?which remains on newsstands throughout the weekend?were considered a Sunday paper, it would be the biggest by far. Friday edition sales, the newspaper reported, were 2,003,620, an increase of 99,676 from the year before.
Reflecting local economic woes, the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe reported year-over-year losses.
Higher sales continued to elude Detroit’s two daily newspapers more than three years after combining business operations in a joint operating agreement.
Daily circulation of the Detroit Free Press was down 13,135 to 574,817, while its editorial rival and future building mate, the Detroit News, reported 31,932 to 389,073.
With those losses, the one-time marketing-leading Detroit News is no longer among the 20 biggest newspapers in the United States.
On Sunday, the combined Detroit News & Free Press remains the third-largest paper, but its circulation slump continued in the latest FAS-FAX.nE&P
ABC FAS-FAX for top 25 Newspapers
(For six months ended March 31, 1993)
1.Wall Street Journal (m)1,852,967+104
2.USA Today (m) (M?Th)1,632,345+91,647
3.New York Times (m) *1,230,461+34,247
4.Los Angeles Times (m)1,138,353-26,035
5.Washington Post (m)855,171+8,536
6.New York Daily News (m)769,801-11,995
8.Chicago Tribune (m)691,941-41,834
9.Detroit Free Press (m)574,817-13,135
10.San Francisco Chronicle (m)564,374+6,730
11.Chicago Sun-Times (m)553,355+22,499
12.Boston Globe (m)504,869-875
13.Dallas Morning News (m)504,313+52,685
14.Philadelphia Inquirer (m)502,740+2,171
15.Newark Star-Ledger (m) ** 483,012-476
16.New York Post (m)427,319-43,668
17.Houston Chronicle (all-day)423,256-2,519
18.Miami Herald (m)414,216-6,229
19.Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune413,603+732
20.Cleveland Plain-Dealer (m)408,829-5,212
21.Phoenix Arizona Republic (m) ** 397,118+6,280
22.San Diego Union-Tribune (all-day) ** 390,331+5,077
23.Detroit News (e)389,073-31,932
24.St. Petersburg Times (m) ** 384,283-5,757
25.Denver rocky Mountain News (m)363,272-2,208
* Year-ago figure adjusted to audit
** Average three months
1.New York Times *1,812,458+39,426
2.Los Angeles Times1,521,197-10,330
3.Detroit News & Free Press 1,179,197-12,593
6.New York Daily News977,599-5,641
9.Dallas Morning News834,035+89,321
11.Newark Star-Ledger **728,579+11,058
12.Atlanta Journal & Constitution719,411+20,239
13.San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle715,299+6,098
14.Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune695,710+9,735
15.Phoenix Arizona Republic **612,041+8,607
17.St. Louis Post-Dispatch569,857-2,655
21.Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer520,453-1,696
22.St Petersburg Times **498,216+910
25.San Diego Union-Tribune **464,743+9,411
Missing from list: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, not filing for this period