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Merc reports huge circulation decline

Editor & Publisher Magazine

By Jennifer Saba

NEW YORK — The San Jose Mercury News reported its spring circulation numbers Monday, two weeks after most other daily newspapers did, and the filing shows that the Knight Ridder paper experienced one of the biggest circ drops in the industry. For the six-month period ending March 2005, daily circ at the Mercury News declined 7.1%, or 19,890, to 259,649 copies. Sunday circ fell 9.9%, or 30,793, to 277,632 copies.

The California paper did not file its Publishers Statement on time, missing the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ FAS-FAX report released May 3. A spokesperson for Knight Ridder previously said that the Mercury News was handling its yearly audit with the organization at the same time their six-month Publishers Statement was due, hence the delay. (Later Tuesday, a Mercury News official explained that the drops were caused by reductions in other-paid circulation. See article here.)

The Mercury News’ numbers were reported in ABC’s supplemental Fas-Fax, released Monday. This report provides circulation data on publications that filed their Publisher’s Statements after the deadline for the regular FAS-FAX. The supplement also contains corrections to data shown in the original report.

Other papers to make an appearance on the supplemental report: The Boston Globe, which made a minor adjustment to its weekday Friday average by exactly one copy, from 434,330 to 434,329. The paper experienced other changes as well, including a decrease of 983 copies made to its Saturday numbers, to 178,233. The change stems from the more-than-50% paid column, which declined by 983 copies on the same day to 169,009.

The Oregonian in Portland shifted some of its circulation as well. In the supplemental FAS-FAX, the paper made dramatic gains in the more-than-50% paid category. In that column, Monday through Friday increased by 44,799 copies, to 315,717 (wiping out the entire 25%-to-50%-paid column). Sunday showed similar gains in that category.

Mostly small to medium-sized papers also showed up in the 19 page report. The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., experienced decreases in both daily and Sunday circ, down 3.3% and 4.7% respectively. The Enid News & Eagle in Oklahoma also slipped in daily 4.9% and Sunday 4.7%.

In Colorado, the Fort Collins Coloradoan experienced minor dips. The Pantagraph in Bloomington, Ill., reported daily declines of 1.6% to 47,163, as Sunday decreased 2.5% to 49,329.

The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., slipped slightly daily but Sunday showed small gains at 0.3% to 121,931.

Jennifer Saba is an associate editor at E&P.

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