Newspapers Collectively Lose 941,470 Paying Readers

Latest Audit Bureau Report Shows Gains at Just 6 of Top 25 Dailies

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The latest newspaper-circulation results released this morning again show an industry slowly but steadily losing paying readers. Although subscriber churn was down and the paid-circulation decline was smaller than it was last time around, the picture isn't getting much prettier
In the New York newspaper war, the Post today raised its cover price to 50 cents from 25 cents, while the Daily News started a five-day promo cut to 25 cents, down from its usual 50 cents.
In the New York newspaper war, the Post today raised its cover price to 50 cents from 25 cents, while the Daily News started a five-day promo cut to 25 cents, down from its usual 50 cents.

For the six months ended March 31, the average weekday circulation of all 745 newspapers reporting for comparable periods was 44,961,066, down 2.1% from the equivalent period a year earlier, according to a Newspaper Association of America analysis of figures compiled by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That's a loss of 941,470 paying customers.

Decline in turnover
The last period, covering the six months ended Sept. 30, 2006, showed a slightly steeper decline of 2.8%. The Newspaper Association of America also said today subscriber turnover fell to 36.5% in 2006 from 42.1% in 2004 and 54.5% in 2000.

Among the biggies, though, that may prove small comfort. Of the largest 25 dailies in the U.S., actual circulation gains materialized for only six: USA Today, up a slim 0.23%; The Wall Street Journal, up 0.61% for the period that included its redesign and size reduction; the aggressively warring New York Post (up 7.63%) and New York Daily News (up 1.37%); the Philadelphia Inquirer, up 0.61%; and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, up 0.45%.

The war in New York
A note on the New York newspaper war, by the way: the Post today raised its cover price to 50 cents from 25 cents, while the Daily News took the opportunity to start a five-day promotional cut to 25 cents, down from its usual 50 cents.

Most of the top 25 papers' declines were much larger. The biggest drop-off among them came at the Dallas Morning News, whose paid-weekday-circulation average fell 14.27%. The New York Times, which usually ekes out a small gain, gave up 1.93%. On the other coast, the Los Angeles Times lost 4.24%.

Long-term initiatives
Amid the gloom, The Newspaper Association of America again praised industry investment in products that increase audience, paying or no, such as newspaper websites. "The latest ABC circulation figures are in range with what we expected," said John F. Sturm, the association president-CEO. "As confirmed by the findings in [our] latest Circulation Facts, Figures & Logic study, publishers have been moving away from investing in short-term circulation sales programs toward longer-term marketing initiatives that deliver the most value and make economic sense."

The association recently released data citing Nielsen/NetRatings showing more that unique visitors to newspaper sites rose 5.3% during the first quarter when compared with first-quarter 2006.
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