DAILIES CHEER SMALL GAINS, BUT CIRCULATION WOES LINGER

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Although the industry is cheering as a sign of renewed vitality the slight circulation gains made by 19 of the 30 largest dailies, declines still persist at some of the nation's biggest newspapers.

"We've seen a gentle falloff in circulation overall for the last 10 years," said John Sturm, president-CEO of the Newspaper Association of America. "One report does not a trend make, but hopefully this signals a steady turnabout toward an upward trend."

Still, he admitted the increases-mostly small gains of less than 4%-were "largely driven by individual efforts in individual markets."

His remarks followed the release of Audit Bureau of Circulations data for the six months ended Sept. 30.

'USA TODAY' GAINS

Among national newspapers, Gannett Co.'s USA Today fared best, posting a 2.3% increase in daily circulation to 1.62 million and a 2% lift in circulation for its weekend edition, to 2 million.

Dow Jones & Co.'s The Wall Street Journal was essentially flat at 1.7 million, a decrease of 0.5% compared to the same period last year.

"We would always like to be growing circulation, but not at the expense of the quality of circulation," said a spokesman for the Journal, adding that no strategy is in place to increase circulation during the next six months.

The New York Times was up 0.3% in daily circulation, to 1.07 million, while Sunday circulation was up 0.4%, to 1.68 million.

New York's Daily News was one of the top 20 newspapers to show circulation declines; daily circulation dropped 1.8% to 721,256, while Sunday circulation plummeted 10% to 807,788 in the wake of new competition from the New York Post. That paper's Sunday edition, priced at 25 cents, was up 10.6% to 326,087, while daily circulation increased a slight 1.5% to 436,226.

Other leading newspapers with circulation declines included The Washington Post, down 1.6% in daily circulation to 775,894; the Chicago Tribune, down 4.1% to 653,554; Chicago Sun-Times, down 2.4% to 484,379; and San Francisco Chronicle, down 0.6% to 484,218.

GROWTH FOR 'L.A. TIMES'

The Los Angeles Times, being closely watched by industry observers after new Publisher Mark Willes set a goal of increasing weekday circulation by 500,000 copies, is already on a growth curve; it saw a 2% jump in daily circulation, to 1.05 million, and a 0.9% gain in Sunday circulation, to 1.3 million.

Beginning with the next ABC reporting period, NAA is hoping to provide more context to the raw circulation numbers by providing an accompanying readership report that will include total audience figures and top-line demographics for 58

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