Newspapers' circulation continues to fall

More readers are turning to the Internet and other electronic media, report says

May 01, 2007|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun reporter

Circulation at the nation's major metropolitan newspapers continued to drop in the six months ending March 31 as consumers increasingly turned to the Internet and other electronic media for news, according to industry figures released yesterday.

Average daily circulation at 745 newspapers dropped 2.1 percent compared with the corresponding period last year, according to a report released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations and analyzed by the Newspaper Association of America. Average Sunday circulation at 601 newspapers slipped 3.1 percent.

"It's a broken record now," said Dante Chinni, a senior researcher at the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "At this point, you have to think this trend will not reverse itself. The news will be if these numbers came back, and there was an increase."

A few newspapers did report gains, some of them sizable. The New York Post, which has been gaining circulation for the past several years, climbed 7.6 percent to 724,748. Its tabloid rival, the New York Daily News, saw its circulation increase 1.4 percent, to 718,174.

The Washington Post saw its daily circulation drop 3.5 percent to 699,130, slipping behind the New York City tabloids to seventh place in circulation.

The Sun's net daily circulation slipped 1.8 percent to 232,140, while Sunday circulation was down 6.1 percent to 377,561.

The Sun nearly broke even on daily sales to home-delivery subscribers, but Sunday circulation and sales by vendors and retail outlets continued to wane.

Much of The Sun's decline was because of the newspaper continuing to cut back on so-called "other-paid" circulation, or copies given away in promotions. They were reduced by 21.2 percent during the week and 57.1 percent on Sunday, the newspaper said.

The Sun's single-copy sales - papers sold by street vendors and retail stores - dipped 6.5 percent during the week and 5.1 percent on Sundays. Home delivery sales, the largest portion of The Sun's circulation, fell 4 percent on Sundays.

Louis Maranto, vice president of circulation at The Sun, said the newspaper has been "holding our own" since the launch last April of The Examiner, a competing free daily whose circulation is not audited by ABC. The Sun's daily circulation has been steady since The Examiner began publishing, ABC figures show. The Examiner does not publish a Sunday edition.

Taking into account the growing online readership, The Sun said total readership of The Sun and baltimoresun.com is on average 1.3 million weekly, an increase from 1.1 million in February last year.

To take advantage of increasing use of its Web site, The Sun plans to launch a fee-based electronic replica of its print edition this year, Maranto said. Consumers can flip through the digital version of a daily or Sunday edition the way they would the print product, he said.

Daily circulation at USA Today, the nation's largest newspaper, increased 0.23 percent to 2,278,022, while the second largest, The Wall Street Journal, had a minor gain of 0.61 percent to 2,062,312 copies.

The third-largest paper, The New York Times, was down 1.9 percent daily and 3.4 percent Sunday. The Los Angeles Times, which like The Sun is owned by Tribune Co., saw daily circulation drop 4.2 percent and 4.7 percent Sunday.

One of the largest declines came from The Dallas Morning News, which reported a 14.3 percent drop in daily circulation and 13.3 percent Sunday. It was the first time that the Morning News, the 11th-largest paper, reported such figures since being censured in 2004 for misstating its circulation.

The newspaper said in a statement that more than half of the decline was because of its decision to reduce the circulation area of the newspaper to within 100 miles of Dallas as well as cutting back on "other-paid" circulation.

hanah.cho@baltsun.com

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