U.S. newspaper circulation continues 20-year slide

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Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Circulation figures dropped an average 1.9% among 814 U.S. newspapers according to research by the Newspaper Association of America industry group. The drop, which continues a 20-year declining trend, is one of the worst 6 month slips since a 1984 circulation peak.

Factors such as cable TV and the Internet are named as challengers in the competition for reader attention. Also contributing are scandal-driven changes in the way circulation is calculated. Concerns over the credibility of circulation figures given by some newspapers have gripped the industry and caused 3 of the top-twenty papers to have their figures excluded from the report [see below]. A paper’s circulation is the key figure looked at by advertisers when making spending decisions.

Posting slight increases were two rare circulation gainers USA Today and The New York Times. Many papers said drops were partly due to intentional distribution cuts, such as to hotels and schools for example. Another cause was that circulation drives were less successful due to the US National do-not-call registry hampering telemarketer ability to contact potential subscribers.

USA TOP 20 PAPERS
Average daily 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, 2,281,831, up 0.05%
2. Wall Street Journal, 2,070,498, down 0.8%
3. New York Times, 1,136,433, up 0.2%
4. Los Angeles Times, 907,997, down 6.5% (a)
5. Washington Post, 751,871, down 2.7%
6. New York Daily News, 735,536, down 1.5%
7. New York Post, 678,086, up 0.01%
8. Chicago Tribune, 573,744, down 6.6%
9. Houston Chronicle, 527,744, down 3.9% (a)
10. San Francisco Chronicle, 468,739, down 6.1% (a)
11. Arizona Republic, 452,016, down 3.2% (a)
12. Boston Globe, 434,330, down 3.9%
13. Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., 394,767, down 1.6%
14. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 391,373, down 2.4%
15. Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul, 378,316, up 0.33% (a)
16. Philadelphia Inquirer, 364,974, down 3% (a)
17. Plain Dealer, Cleveland, 348,416, down 5.2% (a)
18. Detroit Free Press, 347,447, down 2.0%
19. St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, 337,515, down 3.2% (a)
20. The Oregonian, Portland, 335,980, down 1.8%
Newsday of New York's Long Island; the Dallas Morning News; the Chicago Sun-Times and Hoy, a Spanish-language newspaper in New York, were not allowed to include their circulation figures as a penalty for misstating figures in the past. The first three were among the top 20 a year ago.
(a) Includes Saturday circulation.
  • Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations (reported by Chicago Sun-Times)


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