Newspapers Across the Country Show Steep Declines in Circulation, in New FAS-FAX

By: Jennifer Saba Circulation at many of the country's largest newspapers continued a steep slide as the Audit Bureau of Circulations Monday morning released the latest figures for the six months ending September 2009 -- proving yet again that the industry can't shake the dramatic declines that have taken hold over the past several years.

On a comparable basis, ABC reported that for the 379 newspapers filing with the organization, average daily circulation plunged 10.6% to 30,395,652 -- one of the most severe drops in overall circulation. Sunday circulation for 562 reporting newspapers was down 7.4% to 40,012,253.

Check out E&P's list of the top 25 daily papers in the nation by circ, here. Go here for a list of the top 25 papers on Sunday. And For a list of the top 10 gainers this time around, go here.

USA Today had earlier announced a 17% hit. The Wall Street Journal overtook USA Today as the No. 1 daily in the country, according to ABC. Circulation at the Journal was up slightly, 0.6% to 2,024,269.

Compared to the same six-month period ending September 2008, daily (Monday-Friday) circulation at The New York Times is down 7.2% to 927,851. Sunday fell 2.6% to 1,400,302.

The Los Angeles Times reported its daily circ is off 11% to 657,467 and 6.7% on Sunday to 983,702.

Daily circ at The Washington Post fell 6.4% to 582,844 while Sunday was down 5% to 822,208.

Daily circ at the Chicago Tribune decreased 9.7% to 465,892. Sunday was down 7.1% to 803,220.

The San Francisco Chronicle lost more than a quarter of its daily circ, down 25.8% to 251,782. Sunday was off more than 22% to 306,705.

Daily at The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., dropped 22.2% to 246,006 and 18.5% on Sunday to 371,060.

The Boston Globe's daily circ decreased 18.4% to 264,105. Sunday lost 16.9% to 418,529.

Daily circulation at the Chicago Sun-Times dropped 12% to 275,641. Sunday circ at that paper fell 1.8% to 251,260. In a statement released this morning, the Sun-Times noted a price increase to 75 cents from 50 cents. Single-copy sales are down while daily home-delivered papers grew 5.5%.

The Miami Herald reported a daily circ decline of 23% to 162,260. Sunday fell 14.6% to 238,613.

Daily circ at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland was down 11.2% to 271,180, while Sunday was down 4.9% to 390,636.

Daily circulation at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis fell 5.5% to 304,543. Sunday was off 8.3% to 477,562.

In Houston, the Chronicle's daily circ declined 14.2% to 384,419 while Sunday fell 6.3% to 547,387.

Daily circ at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix fell 12.3% to 316,874. Sunday was almost flat (-0.8%) to 458,992.

The Baltimore Sun's daily circ dropped 14.7% to 186,639. Sunday declined 8% to 322,491.

The Orange County Register lost 10.1% of its daily circulation to 212,293. Sunday fell 3.4% to 288,174.

There are several reasons as to why circulation keeps dropping, aside from former readers who have kicked the print edition to the curb. Publishers have been purposely pulling back on certain types of circulation, including hotel, employee and third-party sponsored copies. No longer are they distributing newspapers to the outer reaches of the core market. The cost of delivery and the cost of materials have forced publishers to scale back.

Another shift has occurred: volume has taken a back seat to dollars.

Several major newspapers across the country have aggressively hiked prices of single-copy and home-delivered papers in search of circulation revenue and a renewed focus on loyal readers. Circulation is guaranteed to go down as prices go up, but publishers have opted to wring more revenue from readers as advertisers keep their coffers closed.

Several newspaper companies reported their circulation revenue is on the rise. In Q3, circulation revenue grew 6.7% at McClatchy, 11% at Media General, and 6.7% at The New York Times Co.

A.H. Belo raised home-delivered subscription prices from $21 to $30 on May 1 at its flagship. Daily circulation at The Dallas Morning News dropped 20.8% and 15.5% on Sunday but executives attributed about 40% of home-delivered loss to the price rate increase. The company also trimmed back circulation in other areas as well.


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