'N.Y. Post' Finally Beats 'Daily News' in Paid Circulation

One of the Few Newspapers Crowing About First-Half Circ Figures

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The New York Post has finally achieved what often seemed to be its mission in business -- not profitability, not prestige, but passing its hated rival, the Daily News, in paid circulation for the first time.

The Post has finally passed its hated rival, the Daily News, for the first time.
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"A bit of history was made in the great media struggle in New York City today," said Col Allen, editor in chief at the Post. "We're obviously delighted."

Up 5.1% over last year
The Post reported average paid weekday circulation of 704,011 for the six months ending Sept. 30, up 5.1% over the equivalent period a year before. The News, however, reported average weekday paid circulation of 693,382, up about 1%. The Post also passed The Washington Post for the first time; that paper reported average paid weekday circulation of 656,297, down 3.3%.

The results were part of a generally gloomy compilation of circulation figures provided this morning by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The average daily paid circulation for all 770 newspapers reporting was 43.7 million, down 2.8% from the period a year ago, according to an analysis by the Newspaper Association of America.

Of the top 25 papers in the U.S., ranked by average weekday paid circulation, only three showed gains: the Post, the News and the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which notched a 0.7% increase. Gannett's USA Today, the country's largest, saw average weekday paid circ slide 1.3% to nearly 2.3 million. At No. 2, The Wall Street Journal, from Dow Jones, reported a 1.9% decline to about 2 million. And the third biggest, The New York Times, reported a 3.5% fall to nearly 1.1 million.

Tough year in L.A.
The fourth-largest paper, Tribune's Los Angeles Times, reported a steep 8% drop to 775,766. L.A. businessmen such as David Geffen and Rob Burkle are said to be interested in buying that one away from Tribune.

And in Philadelphia, the news was not good for Brian P. Tierney, the public-relations and ad executive who bought The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News from Knight-Ridder this year for $562 million. The Inky reported average paid Monday-through-Friday circulation of 330,622, a decline of 7.6%, while the News reported average paid weekday circ of 112,540, down about 7%. Union workers at those papers are already preparing to fight the cuts they believe Mr. Tierney will propose.

The newspaper association, as one might expect, highlighted the good news to be found in today's report, pointing out that the total newspaper audience expanded by 8% and that a record 58 million people visited newspaper websites in September.

'Refocusing marketing efforts'
"The circulation figures are in range with what we expected as publishers are refocusing their marketing efforts on adding and retaining the readers that deliver most value to advertisers and make economic sense," John F. Sturm, the association's president-CEO, said in a statement. "The other important focus is the conversations publishers and advertisers are having about newspapers' audiences that cover a wider scope than net paid circulation."

There are actually all kinds of context and devilish details to consider. Remember, for example, that the Daily News charges 50 cents on weekdays, twice the Post's 25-cent price.

As web site Gawker put it: "The Post's strategy of hemorrhaging millions of dollars annually has finally paid off, as they've passed the News in circulation, becoming the country's fifth-largest paper." Gawker's headline? 'Breaking: More People Willing to Spend a Quarter Than Fifty Cents."

In all fairness, that wasn't true before. And as Mr. Allen pointed out, the Post cut its price to 25 cents years ago. "Price is clearly an issue when the price is first cut," he said. "It's become such a normalcy in the market that the growth is driven not by the price but instead by the content."

"If you'd lost $300 million over the past five years, spent $200 million on new presses, carpet-bombed neighborhoods with free copies and lost fortunes to sell a few thousand papers in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, you'd be desperate to celebrate creeping a few copies ahead of us," said Martin Dunn, Daily News editor-in-chief & deputy publisher. "The Daily News is still unequivocally the No. 1 newspaper in the place that counts -- New York. Let's see where we are next year."
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