Newspapers continue circulation slide

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Newspapers, many of which have reached out to new audiences through affiliated Web sites, did not post any significant gains in circulation for their ink-on-paper products, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Daily newspaper circulation posted the slightest of gains for the six-month period October 1999 through March 2000 -- compared to the same period a year before -- with overall weekday newspaper circulation up just 0.2%. Sunday circulation was essentially flat (down 0.6%), according to analysis of the ABC figures by the Newspaper Association of America.

The Wall Street Journal led the pack with 1,812,590 daily circulation, while USA Today was second with 1,757,699 and the Los Angeles Times third with 1,153,706. The New York Times was fourth with a 1,149,576 average daily circulation.

The latest ABC figures state circulation for 799 daily U.S. newspapers. Of those, less than half (41.4%) gained in weekday circulation. Total daily circulation of those newspapers combined grew to 49.3 million, up 0.2%.

Fourteen of the top 20 newspapers reported slight gains in weekday circulation: The Boston Globe; Chicago Tribune; New York's Daily News; The Dallas Morning News; The Denver Post; Houston Chronicle; Los Angeles Times; Newsday, Melville, N.Y.; New York Post; The New York Times; The Rocky Mountain News, Denver; USA Today; The Wall Street Journal; and The Washington Post.

Those with the biggest gains were for the most part those with the largest weekday circulations, according to NAA analysis. Newspapers with circulations more than 500,000 showed an average gain of 1.3%, and those with circulations between 250,000 and 499,999 were up 1.5%. Newspapers with daily circulations in the 100,000 to 249,999 range were flat -- with a 0.01% loss -- while those in the 50,000 to 99,999 range were down 0.8%. Newspapers with circulation in the 25,000 to 49,999 range were down 0.6%, while those under 25,000 fell 1.1%.

SUNDAY SLUMP

Sunday circulation, generally the number touted by newspapers to advertisers, was down slightly overall (-0.6%). A third of the 601 papers with Sunday circulation in the ABC report showed an increase. Total Sunday circulation was 53,641,375 compared to 53,959,826 a year ago.

A dozen of the top 20 Sunday newspapers showed increases: The Dallas Morning News; The Denver Post; Houston Chronicle; Los Angeles Times; Minneapolis' Star Tribune; Newsday; The New York Times; Philadelphia's Inquirer; The Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer; Rocky Mountain News; The Seattle Times; Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.; and New Orleans' Times-Picayune.

Sunday newspapers with circulation over 500,000 were up slightly (0.5%), while those in the next category (250,000 to 499,999) were down 1.1%. Those with circulations ranging from 100,000 to 249,999 were down 0.9%, while those in the 50,000 to 99,999 range were down 1.0%. Newspapers with circulations between 25,000 to 49,999 were also down 1.0%, and those under 25,000 were off 0.8%

COMPETITIVE MEDIA INDEX

In part to counter the sliding circulation figures and a general downward trend over the last several years, the NAA last year began a new measure of newspaper readership known as the Competitive Media Index. That data calculate how many people read a newspaper each day rather than the number who purchase one, and includes pass along readership. The NAA, which partnered with Scarborough Research to do the ongoing study, believes it is a more accurate picture of adult readership of newspapers.

According to CMI, more than half (56%) of all adults in the top 50 markets read a daily newspaper every day, and 75% read one over a five day period. On Sundays, 66.2% read a newspaper, while 79.9% read a paper at least one Sunday out of four.

Newspaper readership, especially Sunday readership, is an issue that the NAA and newspaper publishers will address this week at their annual convention, with a new study presented May 8 called "Changes in Sunday Readership: Impact on the Newspaper Industry."

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