Originally created 05/05/04

Newspaper circulation edges down

NEW YORK -- Overall newspaper circulation edged down in the latest six-month reporting period, but several large newspapers bucked the trend, including USA Today, the largest newspaper in the country.

The Wall Street Journal also posted a robust 15 percent increase in circulation in the six months ending March 31, thanks to the inclusion of some of its online subscribers under rules recently implemented by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

According to data released Monday, USA Today remained the largest-selling daily in the nation with an average daily circulation of 2.28 million, up 2.2 percent from the comparable period a year ago. The Wall Street Journal followed with 2.10 million and the New York Times with 1.13 million.

The Journal included 295,162 of its 695,000 paying online subscribers in its circulation total. The included subscribers take only the online edition of the paper and pay more than 25 percent of the cost of getting the print Journal.

On the whole, average daily circulation of the 836 newspapers reporting to the ABC declined 0.1 percent, according to an analysis of the Audit Bureau's data done by the Newspaper Association of America, and industry group. The NAA reported that only 37 percent of those newspapers reported circulation gains in the period.

John Sturm, the NAA's chief executive, said there was "no single factor" behind the overall decline in newspaper circulation in the latest period. The figure has been on slowly eroding for about the last decade.

"It's a result of having multiple media choices these days," Sturm said. "I'd lay the newspaper industry's loss in circulation up against market share of a lot of individual channels out there in the video world."

John Morton, an independent newspaper industry analyst, said the industry's circulation performance continued to be "sluggish," though "somewhat less so than in the past."

Including the Journal's gain, eight of the top 10 newspapers reported gains in the latest period, including the two New York City tabloids, which are engaged in a bitter circulation war.

The New York Post's circulation climbed 9.3 percent to 678,012, narrowing the gap with its rival, the New York Daily News, which also posted a gain of 1.4 percent to 747,053 in the latest period. The Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. conglomerate, while the Daily News is owned by Mortimer Zuckerman, who also owns U.S. News & World Report.

Average weekday circulation of the nation's 20 biggest newspapers for the six months ended March 31, as reported Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The percentage changes are from the comparable year-ago period.

1. USA Today, 2,280,761, up 2.2 percent

2. The Wall Street Journal, 2,101,017, up 15.4 percent (a)

3. The New York Times, 1,133,763, up 0.3 percent

4. Los Angeles Times, 983,727 , up 0.4 percent (b)

5. The Washington Post, 772,553, down 3 percent

6. New York Daily News, 747,053, up 1.4 percent

7. New York Post, 678,012, up 9.3 percent

8. Chicago Tribune, 614,548, down 1 percent

9. Newsday of New York's Long Island, 580,346, up 0.2 percent

10. Houston Chronicle, 549,300, up 0.1 percent (b)

11. The Dallas Morning News, 529,879, down 0.4 percent

12. San Francisco Chronicle, 501,135, down 2.6 percent

13. Chicago Sun-Times, 486,936, down 0.3 percent

14. The Arizona Republic, 466,926, down 4 percent (b)

15. The Boston Globe, 452,109, up 0.7 percent

16. The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., 407,945, up 0.05 percent

17. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 401,077, down 4.4 percent

18. The Philadelphia Inquirer, 387,692, up 0.2 percent

19. Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul, 377,058, up 0.4 percent (b)

20. The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, 367,528, down 1.5 percent (b)

(a) The Wall Street Journal's total paid subscription figure for the latest period includes subscribers to its online edition that meet the qualifications for paid subscription under ABC guidelines. Last year's figures do not include online subscribers.

In this period, 295,162 of the Journal's 695,000 paying subscribers qualified under the ABC's definition. Without the online subscribers, the amount of paid print subscribers, 1,805,855, was down 0.8 percent from a year ago.

(b) Includes Saturday circulation

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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Associated Press Peter Svensson contributed to this report.


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