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Times and Sun-Sentinel report readership gains

While most of Florida's biggest newspapers lost circulation for the six months ended Sept. 30, the St. Petersburg Times and Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel posted gains.

The Times' average circulation increased by about 1 percent, to 321,447 daily and 414,113 on Sundays, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, a Chicago company that monitors media sales. At the Sun-Sentinel, daily circulation was up almost 1 percent, to 240,091, while Sunday circulation gained 1.2 percent, to 354,105.

Meanwhile, sales fell at the Tampa Tribune. Partly because the Tribune pulled out of outlying markets to concentrate on Hillsborough and Pasco counties, its circulation fell by about 5 percent, to 227,570 daily and 320,083 on Sundays.

Reid Ashe, president and publisher of the Tribune, said the losses were expected, given the newspaper's transformation from a widely circulated newspaper a few years ago to one that now focuses on Hillsborough and east Pasco counties. Ashe said the Tribune withdrew to the two counties because advertisers want more targeted advertising these days and because it wasn't making money selling papers in other counties.

Unlike other state newspapers, the Herald did not report daily circulation figures based on Monday-Saturday sales because it changed the way it sells advertising packages. But Chris Mobley, vice president of circulation at the Herald, estimated Monday-Saturday sales averaged 338,640 daily, down from 344,363 during the comparable period a year ago.

That puts the Herald back on top as the state's biggest paper, even though it continued to lose both daily and Sunday sales.

The Times had surpassed the Herald as the state's biggest daily newspaper for the six months ended March 31. The Times' circulation tends to fluctuate widely because of the influx of winter residents along the Suncoast each year.

Like the Tribune, the Herald's circulation declines result mainly from its decision to pull out of outlying markets in recent years, Mobley said.

"We made the decision, like many other papers, to concentrate on our core market, and we lost a bunch of circulation as a result," Mobley said. "But that has begun to stabilize and is turning around."

Also hurting the Herald's circulation was the fact that in February it started selling its Spanish edition, El Nuevo Herald, separately, which cut into sales of the English-language Herald. Previously, the Spanish version was sold as a package with the English version.

The circulation gains at the Times result mainly from increased marketing, increased sales of regional editions and improved customer service, said Times spokesman Mike Foley.

Like the Times, big newspapers around the country reported circulation gains in part because of increased marketing and added features to attract new readers.

Audit Bureau figures show that nearly two-thirds of newspapers with circulation greater than 200,000 reported gains during the six-month period.

Among the large papers with gains: the Detroit Free Press, up 5.1 percent, the Los Angeles Times, up 2.1 percent, and the New York Times, up 0.3 percent.

_ Information from Bloomberg News was used in this report.

Circulation mixed at state's biggest dailies

Most of Florida's largest newspapers reported declines in dialy and Sunday circulation during the six months between March 31 and Sept. 30, 1997, compared with the same period a year earlier. Daily circulation is counted Monday through Saturday.

Avg. daily Avg. daily Change from

circulation circulation previous year

3/31/97-9/30/97 3/31/96-9/30/96

Miami Herald 338,640+ 344,363 -1.7%

St. Petersburg Times 321,447 316,946 +1.4%

Orlando Sentinel 250,888 251,914 -0.4%

Fort Lauderdale Sun-

Sentinel 240,091 237,841 +0.9%

Tampa Tribune 227,570 240,934 -5.5%

Florida Times-Union 171,644 176,708 -2.9%

(Jacksonville)

Palm Beach Post 159,923 161,010 -0.7%

Sarasota Herald-

Tribune 96,545 98,161 -1.6%

Daytona Beach News-

Journal 92,993 93,888 -1.0%

Sunday Sunday Change from

circulation circulation previous year

3/31/97-9/30/97 3/31/96-9/30/96

Miami Herald 463,702 466,024 -0.5%

St. Petersburg Times 414,113 411,236 +0.7%

Orlando Sentinel 373,431 373,952 -0.1%

Fort Lauderdale Sun-

Sentinel 354,105 349,975 +1.2%

Tampa Tribune 320,083 335,647 -4.6%

Florida Times-Union 237,234 239,442 -0.9%

(Jacksonville)

Palm Beach Post 208,300 209,803 -0.7%

Sarasota Herald-

Tribune 121,144 123,249 -1.7%

Daytona Beach News-

Journal 112,505 111,499 +0.9%

+ Based on estimates; the Miami Herald no longer reports daily circulation based on Monday-Saturday sales.

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations

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