Daily circulation up slightly at Sun

6-month gain is first in 4 1/2 years

April 29, 2008|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN REPORTER

The Sun's daily circulation rose slightly during the six months that ended March 31, bucking a trend of continued falling circulation at most major metropolitan newspapers, according to industry numbers released yesterday. It was the first daily circulation gain in 41/2 years for The Sun.

The newspaper's paid daily circulation for Monday through Friday averaged 232,360, up from 232,138, a 0.1 percent gain, The Audit Bureau of Circulations reported. That was in contrast to an industrywide decline of about 3.5 percent, according to an analysis of the ABC's numbers by trade journal Editor & Publisher.

The ABC reported daily circulation results for 530 dailies across the U.S. Just over 53 percent of adults - about 1 million - living in the Baltimore market read The Sun during a one-week period, according to an ABC survey. Almost 300,000 visited the paper's Web site during a 30-day period, the ABC said.

Daily circulation fell at all of the nation's top 25 newspapers except two - USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, which posted gains of 0.27 percent and 0.35 percent, respectively.

The Sun's daily circulation gain was driven by stepped-up marketing efforts in the newspaper's primary market of Baltimore and the five surrounding counties, which led to a 4 percent increase in home delivery in the metro area, company executives said.

"It is significant because it's an improvement from previous trends," said Judy Berman, senior vice president of marketing for Baltimore Sun Media Group, which publishes The Sun; b - a new daily tabloid - and community newspapers. "Our goal was to stabilize both the daily and Sunday" circulation.

The Sun's Sunday circulation was 372,970, a 1.2 percent decline, but an improvement over prior results. Saturday circulation fell 8 percent, to 210,901.

"We are continuing to aggressively take advantage of market opportunities and build momentum in growing audience," said Tim Ryan, BSMG publisher, president and chief executive officer. "More than ever, we are engaging our readers to deliver innovative and targeted content when, where and how they want it," Ryan said.

Berman said the newspaper plans to continue its strategy of focusing on local news, cross-promoting its newspapers and Web sites and increasing home delivery and the overall audience. With the recent launch of b and its companion Web site, bthesite.com, geared toward young adults, the publishing company is hoping to engage a group that has not been typical newspaper readers, she said.

Newspapers have struggled in the face of growing online competition and a faltering economy that has hurt advertising revenue.

Daily circulation dipped 3.57 percent for The Washington Post and 3.85 percent for T he New York Times , the third-largest paper. The Dallas Morning News took the biggest circulation hit of the top 25 dailies, reporting a 10.59 percent drop in daily circulation.

Of the 601 dailies that reported, Sunday circulation declined an average of 4.5 percent, Editor & Publisher said. Sunday circulation fell at all of the top 25 daily newspapers except for the St. Petersburg Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ABC reported.

"We've had maybe three to four years now of pretty substantial declines industrywide," as readers' habits have shifted to seeking news online as well as in print, said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit continuing education school for journalists.

But even as revenue from advertising and classified advertising has decreased, some newspapers that have been cutting costs have been able to stabilize or even increase circulation by putting more money into attracting new subscriptions, Edmonds said.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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