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Many Top Papers Take Big Hits
By Jennifer Saba
Published: November 05, 2007 8:10 AM ET updated all morning
NEW YORK The Audit Bureau of Circulations released circulation numbers for more than 700 daily newspapers this morning for the six-month period ending September 2007. Of the top 25 papers in daily circulation (see chart, separate story), only four showed gains.
According to an analysis of ABC figures, for 538 daily U.S. newspapers, circulation declined 2.5% to 40,689,617. For 609 papers that filed on Sunday, overall circulation dropped 3.5% to 46,771,486. The percentages are based on comparisons from the same period a year ago and represent the majority of the paper's reporting into ABC -- less than half in the country.
For The New York Times, daily circulation fell 4.51% to 1,037,828 and Sunday plunged 7.59% to 1,500,394, at least partly due to a price increase.
Daily circulation at The Washington Post was down 3.2% to 635,087 and Sunday was down 3.9% to 894,428.
Daily circulation at The Boston Globe tumbled 6.6% to 360,695 and Sunday fell about the same, 6.5% to 548,906.
The Wall Street Journal was down 1.53% to 2,011,882 daily but USA Today posted a gain of 1% to 2,293,137.
The New York Post slipped this period with daily circ down 5.2% to 667,119 and Sunday fell 5% to 405,486. New York's Daily News also showed declines in daily circ, down 1.7% to 681,415 while Sunday decreased 6.8% to 726,305. But it regained its tabloid lead in daily circ in New York vs. the Post.
At the Chicago Tribune, daily circulation slipped 2.9% to 559,404 and Sunday fell 2% to 917,868.
Its sister publication, the Los Angeles Times, grew slightly up 0.5% to 779,682, while Sunday fell 5.1% to 1,112,165.
Daily and Sunday circulation at the San Francisco Chronicle has stabilized, down 2.9% to 365,234 and 0.6% to 430,115, respectively.
Both The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News experienced deep declines -- more than 10%.
The Philadelphia Inquirer slipped on Sunday but gained 2.3% daily.
Losses at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland were minimal. Daily circulation declined slightly 0.8% to 334,195 while Sunday was flat at 445,795.
In the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, circulation declined in Minneapolis and was virtually flat in St. Paul. At the Star Tribune, daily dropped 6.5% to 335,443, and Sunday was down 4.3% to 570,443. Daily and Sunday circulation at the St. Paul Pioneer Press was up a fraction -- 0.1% for both averages. Daily circ is 184,474 and Sunday is 245,930.
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported that daily circulation: It is 179,912 and Sunday is 199,970. There are no corresponding data for comparisons in the September 2006 period.
Daily circulation at The Sun in Baltimore slipped 1.4% to 232,749 and 4.1% to 364,827 on Sunday. At The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., daily was down 2.7% to 353,003 and Sunday was down 5.5% to 534,128.
The Indianapolis Star reported that daily circ declined 2.1% to 253,209 and Sunday dropped 2.3% to 337,421. Daily and Sunday circ at The Kansas City Star decreased 2.9% to 247,274 and 3.4% to 343,308, respectively.
Daily circulation rose slightly at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times -- it was up fractions of a point to 288,807, as well as Sunday to 389,952.
At The Orange County (Calif.) Register, daily and Sunday fell about 3% and 3.5% to 278,507 and 325,003 respectively.
Daily circ at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix declined 3.7% to 382,414 while Sunday decreased 4.6% to 480,585.
Circulation at the San Jose Mercury News is showing signs of life. Daily was virtually flat at 228,537. Sunday inched up 0.3% to 252,404.
As expected, circulation -- at least paid circulation -- continues to decline sharply. For the past several years, publishers, particularly those at major metros, have been whittling back on circulation considered to be less useful by advertisers. Those papers fall into the category of other paid, which includes hotel, Newspapers in Education, employee, and third party copies.
With the business model under extreme pressure, publishers are also choosing to cut back on circulation in outlying areas and instead focus on "core" markets.
Of course, the trend points to fewer people reading the paper too as single-copy sales, considered a barometer of the industry, is decreasing at larger rates than the overall top line number -- somewhere in the ballpark of 5%.
But for the first time, ABC also released comprehensive "audience" data -- print readership, online readership, unduplicated reach, and monthly unique users -- for roughly 200 papers. The industry is moving toward numbers that take into consideration all their products, including newspaper Web sites, not just paid circulation.