Circulation at The Sun declined in figures released yesterday - at a rate more than the industry average, but less than at many of the nation's largest newspapers who've struggled against price increases, tougher telemarketing laws and several scandals that have rocked the publishing industry.
Average daily circulation at The Sun slipped 2.4 percent in the six months that ended Sept. 30, from the comparable period a year earlier.
Circulation for Monday through Saturday was down to 270,113 in the period, compared with an estimated 276,848 a year earlier, according to preliminary circulation figures released yesterday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based circulation auditing organization.
Sunday circulation at The Sun fell 2.5 percent to 454,045 from 465,807 in the March-to-September period this year compared with last year.
"We are like every other newspaper company; we would prefer to have growth. But the results were within the range of what we anticipated given the factors," said Mireille Grangenois, The Sun's vice president of marketing and interactive media.
The latest figures underscore the newspaper industry's continuing battle to attract readers as competition for attention and advertisers increases from outlets such as the Internet and cable television. In response to those challenges, newspapers are expanding into new niche markets and offering new services.
The Newspaper Association of America said yesterday that, overall, daily circulation across the country fell 0.9 percent through the week and was down 1.5 percent on Sundays.
The organization said that only 281 newspapers out of 841, about a third, reported circulation gains.
Average daily circulation at The Washington Post was down 3 percent to 707,690 from 729,698, while circulation at USA Today, the Gannett Co.-owned newspaper that is the nation's largest, rose 2.8 percent to 2.3 million. The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, the two largest papers owned by Tribune Co., parent company of The Sun, said circulation fell 2 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.
Chicago-based Tribune Co. has set aside $90 million to settle claims from advertisers after revelations in June that its Newsday newspaper in Long Island, N.Y., and Hoy, a Spanish-language daily, overstated the number of paid subscribers. Tribune's third-quarter profit fell 33 percent largely because of charges related to the scandal. Newspaper analysts said the scandal was forcing publishers to be more conservative about how they tally promotional copies among continuing sales.
Some of the largest newspaper circulation declines were felt at the San Francisco Chronicle, down 8.5 percent, and The Buffalo News of New York, down 5.6 percent, like the Los Angeles Times. Newsday, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Dallas Morning News did not report circulation because they are under censure by the circulation audit group because of recent investigations into their practices.
The largest gains reported were at the New York Post, up 5.2 percent, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, up 3.8 percent.
At The Sun, Grangenois said that in light of the circulation report irregularities at Newsday, Hoy and others, Tribune is "carefully examining the circulation records at all of its newspapers, including The Sun."
"Those examinations recently looked at our circulation controls and system over the past 12 months and found them accurate and credible," she said.
Grangenois said the internal audit is preliminary because the Audit Bureau must complete its audit of the paper's circulation and certify the results.
Several factors hurt the paper's circulation in the most recent period, including recently enacted legislation that prevents telemarketers from calling people on a national "do-not-call" registry, she said. In addition, the newspaper increased prices and it transferred billing functions from carriers to in-house operations, which also affected circulation.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Average daily circulation of the nation's 10 biggest newspapers for the six months that ended Sept. 30, as reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
1. USA Today, 2,309,853, up 2.8 percent
2. The Wall Street Journal, 2,106,774, up 0.8 percent
3. The New York Times, 1,121,057, up 0.2 percent
4. Los Angeles Times, 902,164, down 5.6 percent *
5. New York Daily News, 715,052, down 1.6 percent
6. The Washington Post, 707,690, down 3 percent
7. New York Post, 686,207, up 5.2 percent
8. Chicago Tribune, 600,988, down 2 percent
9. Houston Chronicle, 554,783, up 0.3 percent *
10. San Francisco Chronicle, 468,370, down 8.5 percent *
The Baltimore Sun, 270,113, down 2.4 percent *
* Includes Saturday circulation.