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Times to trim fringe operations

The St. Petersburg Times is withdrawing its sales racks from three distant counties and getting out of a magazine and catalog delivery business, newspaper officials said Friday.

The two steps will eliminate 18 full-time and 44 part-time jobs, although some of the affected employees may move into other positions with the company. The Times will save about $1-million a year, officials said, that it can put to better use.

"Our primary mission is to serve newspaper readers and advertisers in the Tampa Bay area, and these fringe operations were detracting from more important efforts," said Judith Roales, the Times' executive vice president and general manager.

The Times will stop selling the newspaper in Sumter, Sarasota and Alachua counties, including Gainesville; the combined circulation in those areas was about 800 on weekdays and 1,500 on Sundays. Outside the five counties in its home circulation area, the Times will keep selling the newspaper in Manatee County and in Tallahassee, the state capital.

The newspaper also is abandoning efforts to build a business by delivering magazines and catalogs for other publishers, cutting by two-thirds a separate delivery operation. The remaining staff will deliver only specialty products created by the Times.

Like other newspapers, the Times finds the cost of paper rising much more rapidly _ about 40 percent in the last year _ than the modest increases in circulation and advertising revenue.

"This is a challenging time," said Roales. "Obviously, we must keep trying new things, but that also means we have to recognize what things aren't working and stop doing them."

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