Seattle Papers Buck Downward JOA Circ Trend

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Seattle’s once-feuding joint operating agreement (JOA) partners proved the exception to the rule Monday as they reported circulation gains, while other JOAs reported across-the-board decreases.

And in an even more extraordinary exception, it was the market-lagging Seattle Post-Intelligencer that showed the bigger gain in the JOA. In the Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX report for the six-month period ended March 31, the Hearst Corp.-owned P-I’s average paid circulation Monday-through-Friday was 129,563, a gain of 1.2%.

The Blethen family-controlled Seattle Times also reported a weekday increase, up 0.5% from the year-ago period to 220,863.

Seattle’s combined Sunday paper recorded a circulation decrease of 3.4% to 409,231.

That paled, however, in comparison to the substantial fall-off in Sunday circulation at another big JOA. Sales of the Sunday Denver Post plummeted 14.8% — a decrease of more than 100,000 copies — to 600,026.

On weekdays, the JOA decreases in Denver were smaller but still dramatic.

The Post reported a Monday-through-Friday circulation of 225,193, down 11.36%. The Rocky Mountain News had a nearly identical circulation of 225,065, also off 11.3% from the year-ago period.

In Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune — like the Denver Post, owned by Media News Group — reported weekday circulation down 5% to 121,699. Its JOA partner, The Deseret Morning News, was down weekdays 1.6% at 73,817.

On Sundays, the Tribune reported circulation of 143,296, off 4%. The Deseret Morning News Sunday circ fell 3.2% from 2007 to 75,022.

In Arizona, the much-smaller newspaper in the Tucson JOA, Gannett Co.’s Tucson Citizen, fell 8.6% to 23,756.

Lee Enterprises’ Arizona Daily Star was also down for the reporting period, decreasing 2.5% to 113,373.

The Sunday Star was off 2.9% for the period, to 164,033.

In the Fort Wayne, Ind., JOA, The News-Sentinel dropped 8.3%, to an evening circulation of 24,196. The Journal Gazette was off 3.9% on weekdays to 64,304. The Sunday paper dropped 5.1% compared to last year, with sales of 114,485 copies.

This story has been corrected. ABC said it provided an incorrect Spring 2007 circulation number for the Denver Post in the FAS-FAX. With the correct, and higher 2007 figure, the Post’s weekday decline from the year-ago period was 11.36%, not 8.1%.

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