Overall circulation gains were relatively small for daily newspapers in Utah during the past year, while circulation reports from around the region were a mixed bag.
According to new figures, compiled by the Audit Bureau of Circulations for the six months ended March 31, Utah's six daily newspapers had 1 percent growth in circulation, adding some 3,200 new subscribers.The largest gainer in total circulation was the Salt Lake Tribune, which gained more than half, or 1,802, of all new daily subscriptions. The state's largest circulation newspaper reported 129,608 subscribers, double the combined daily circulation of No. 2 Deseret News and No. 3 (Ogden) Standard-Examiner.
The (Ogden) Standard-Examiner had the largest percent gain by adding 1,265 subscriptions. The (Provo) Daily Herald added 532 new subscribers and the Deseret News some 396 new subscribers. The (Logan) Herald Journal slipped by about 800 subscribers.
The Deseret News hangs on to its title as Utah's second-largest newspaper by a margin of 54 subscribers. For several years the News has been neck-and-neck for the title with the Standard-Examiner.
About 60 percent of Utah newspaper subscribers read the state's five newspapers that have afternoon weekday publication schedules. However, afternoon papers across the country have been considering changing to a morning publication to attract more readers.
For example, the (St. George) Daily Spectrum will change to morning publication in July. It has been widely anticipated that The Daily Herald will change to a morning publication this year. Managing Editor Mike Patrick confirmed reports that his staff has been "experimenting" with a morning production schedule.
The Deseret News has also been contemplating a move to morning publication on weekdays, but no decision has been made. The paper currently publishes morning editions on Saturday and Sunday. Subscribers in outlying areas are delivered the paper in the morning.
The past 12 months, probably more than any other period in recent memory, marked significant changes in Utah's newspaper business. Along with the anticipated changes to morning circulation by the Daily Spectrum and Daily Herald, here are other changes:
- The Salt Lake Tribune was purchased by cable giant TCI in a landmark buyout, leaving the Deseret News the only locally owned daily newspaper in Utah.
- The purchase of the Daily Herald by Pulitzer Community Newspapers from Scripps League newspapers was completed and a new managing editor was named.
- The Deseret News named its first non-Mormon editor, John Hughes. The former Christian Science Monitor editor and Pulitzer Prize winner has introduced design and content changes. The newspaper staff will move into a new high-rise building this month.
- The Standard-Examiner rolled out a modified newspaper design.
While not reported with the figures, the circulation of Utah's weekly newspapers "are holding steady and not losing subscribers," according to Janice Keller, executive director of the Utah Press Association. One of the few weeklies to make substantial gains is the Park Record in fast-growing Summit County.
Reflecting the strong economy of Utah and the Mountain West, newspaper advertising revenues appear to be strong.
"We're pleased with the revenues," said Ed McCaffrey, advertising director with the Newspaper Agency Corp., the joint advertising and distributing arm of the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune. McCaffrey noted that the Salt Lake newspapers haven't seen poor revenue showings for some five years.
Keller also notes remarkable increases in advertising handled through her association for weekly newspapers, up from a poor showing in the early 1990s.
In the fast-growing areas across the West, newspaper circulation has been expanding. In the nation's fastest-growing metro area, Las Vegas, the morning paper there had a 7.7 percent gain in circulation.
In Denver, the Denver Post saw an 11.91 percent gain in circulation, while the competing Rocky Mountain News' circulation dropped 6.2 percent. The decline was blamed on the paper's withdrawal from outlying areas to concentrate on the Denver metro area. Phoenix, where the afternoon Gazette was merged with the morning Arizona Republic, had a gain of 3.7 percent.
At the same time, there were circulation declines at the (Boise) Idaho Statesman and (Colorado Springs) Gazette-Telegraph. The Albuquerque Journal and Reno Gazette-Journal had little growth.
Nationally, circulation declined at six of the nation's 10 biggest newspapers. The circulation weakness came as the industry felt the effects of newspaper price increases and cutbacks of costly deliveries to outlying areas. While the circulation data caused some concern, analysts felt they were far from disastrous.
"The newspaper industry is very large and very profitable," said John Morton, a newspaper industry analyst at Morton Research. "It's a disturbing long-term trend, though."
Of the 10 biggest papers, only USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the San Francisco Chronicle posted circulation gains,
USA Today, the nation's second-biggest newspaper, saw circulation improve 2.7 percent from 1.62 million to 1.66 million. The Los Angeles Times had the biggest percentage gain of the top 10, 4.7 percent to 1.07 million from 1.02 million.
*Circulation figures for Tuesday - Saturday circulation
** Afternoon Gazette merged with morning Republic.
Figures based on 1996 pre-merger.
Newspaper Sunday Daily March 97 Percent change 96-97
Salt Lake Tribune 162,164 129,608 1.41%
Deseret News 68,095 63,505 0.63%
(Ogden)Standard Examiner 67,295 63,451 2.03%
(Provo)Daily Herald 34,283 33,231 1.63%
(St.George)Daily Spectrum 20,964 19.341* 0.24%
(Logan)Herald Journal 15,117 14,704 -5.42%
TOTAL 367,918 323,930 1.00%
Regional Newspapers over 50,000 circulation
(Phoenix) Arizona Republic/Gazette** 479,888 3.70%
Mesa Tribune 59,563 2.53%
Tucson Star 101,630 1.20%
Albuquerque Journal 115,287 -0.73%
(Colorado Springs) Gazette-Telegraph 99,385 -6.20%
Denver Post 353,786 11.91%
(Denver)Rocky Mountain News 326,189 -2.21%
Pueblo Chieftain 51,640 0.73%
IDAHO (Boise)Idaho Statesman 65,438 -1.35%
Las Vegas Review-Journal 160,334 7.71%
Reno Gazette-Journal 67,203 0.04%