Circulation Slide Continues p. 9

By: Mark Fitzgerald Twenty of the country's 25 largest newspapers report
declining readership for the period ending Sept. 30 sp.

FOR THE THIRD reporting period, the circulations of big-city newspapers slumped virtually across the board.
Despite the seeming turnaround of falling industry advertising revenues, 20 of the 25 largest U.S. newspapers showed circulation declines, compared with the same period last year, according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX report for the six months ended Sept. 30.
The slump did not spare any region of the country ? and also affected the three largest nationally circulated newspapers.
Combined editions of the Wall Street Journal, for instance, were down 38,140 copies from last year to 1,780,422.
USA Today had its third consecutive circulation decline, reporting its FAS-FAX bottom line at 1,465,936, down 28,993 copies from the last half of 1993. The Audit Bureau does not include USA Today's substantial bulk sales in the FAS-FAX tally.
Finally, the New York Times' combined editions declined in circulation, both during the week and on Sundays. Daily, the Times was down 26,461 copies to 1,114,905. The Times' Sunday edition, the largest in the nation, was down 31,928 to 1,724,708.
Indeed, this latest Audit Bureau report confirms a recent and disturbing trend: Sunday circulation, which once could be counted on to weather even bad times, has now begun drifting in the same direction as daily newspaper sales.
Eighteen of the 25 largest Sunday sellers reported circulation losses, some of them substantial.
The Detroit Free Press and News, the Sunday publication of the Knight-Ridder and Gannett joint agency, was off 49,676 copies from last year.
In San Francisco, the jointly produced Sunday San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle lost 22,079 copies to 679,988 and the Chicago Sun-Times fell back below the half-million mark with a 26,949,-copy drop to 497,526.
Both the Sun-Times and its downtown rival with a higher single-copy sales price, the Chicago Tribune, reported circulation declines on Sundays and weekdays.
The biggest loser, however, was Newsday, whose combined Long Island edition and New York Newsday suffered a 54,333 daily circulation decline to 693,556. On Sundays, the Times Mirror-owned units were down 46,045 to 779,629.
The day the Newsday figures were released, the newspaper announced the departure of Robert Johnson, the tabloid's longtime publisher, president and CEO.
A statement released by the parent Times Mirror company said that Johnson left over differences in business philosophy, but concurrent reports stated that New York Newsday's circulation had dipped 16% to 230,000, and the Long Island edition had slipped 2% to 463,000.
Despite the drop in circulation by the New York City edition, Newsday officials pledged to continue full support of the battle for New York City readers.
Among the winners for the reporting period were New York City's other two tabloids:
The New York Daily News was up 37,875 to 964,030 on Sundays, although the newspaper suffered a modest decline of 8,603 copies, to 753,024, on weekdays.
The New York Post, which does not appear on Sundays, was up 10,887 to 405,318.
The biggest circulation gainer among the dailies was the Phoenix Arizona Republic, which showed an increase of 14,359 to 362,199. The Republic also reported a Sunday gain of 17,424 to 565,419.
The Orange County Register reported a daily increase of 6,980 to 350,887, and the Baltimore Sun, a combined morning and evening paper, showed a daily circulation growth of 2,904 to 339,630, and a Sunday increase of 4,361 to 485,210.
The Sunday Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported a 5,978 gain to 714,538.
This latest FAS-FAX report paralleled the seemingly anomalous trend among newspapers: bad circulation news accompanying rising financial performance.
As occurred in past reporting periods, some papers were quick to blame local or national phenomena for their losses.
A favorite excuse this time involved the strikes of professional baseball and hockey.
In May, when the figures for the six months ending March 31 were released, many publishers blamed the drop in sales on the harsh winter in the Northeast, the floods in the Midwest, and the earthquakes on the West Coast.
?( The Sunday New York Daily News was the biggest circulation gainer for the period, with an increase of 37,875. The rival tabloid New York Post was the only one of the four major New York City papers to report a daily increase-a sizable 10,887 gain) [Photo & Caption]


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