Audit Bureau of Circulations: Newspaper circulation falls

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The most recent circulation results for newspapers show the continuance of a long-running trend-that of circulation gradually declining. An analysis by the Newspaper Association of America of all dailies' numbers, as reported by Audit Bureau of Circulations, found a net loss of 0.1% in both daily and Sunday categories.

Those seeking good news can find it, mostly among major and second-tier metro dailies. The picture for the biggest titles is more mixed.

`other paid'

Results for Gannett Corp.'s USA Today's Monday through Thursday (its Friday edition serves as its de facto Sunday paper) showed a net increase of 2%. But a closer look at the numbers at America's largest daily newspaper finds that jump comes from gains in the "other paid" category, which encompasses the likes of copies provided to hotel guests and is a circulation stream USA Today relies heavily upon. Absent that category, USA Today's circulation declined slightly from the year-previous period, falling about 37,000 to 1.2 million.

The conceivable upside for the Nation's Newspaper is that a slowdown in travel does not appear to be significantly affecting circulation. Advertising, though, in that category remains stressed. Outgoing President-Publisher Tom Curley, at last month's Newspaper Association of America convention in Seattle, told a reporter that "everything was up" on the ad side save for travel.

The New York Times posted the biggest decline in the top 10 of papers, with circulation falling 5.3% to 1.1 million. A New York Times spokeswoman attributed this to the circulation jolt the paper experienced post-Sept. 11, which was reflected in the previous year's results, and said the Times remained on track for 10-year circulation growth goals owing to the continued rollout of its national edition.

But the decline actually left the Times with lower daily circulation than even its pre-Sept. 11 figures. Its Monday-through-Friday sales figures for the six months ending March 31 were over 20,000 shy of the figure for the six months ending March 31, 2001.

`post' up 10.2%

The Seattle Times saw daily circulation rise 4.9% even as it girds for a court battle with its joint-operating agreement partner Hearst Newspapers, which owns the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Media General's Tampa Tribune beat the Times with a 5.9% daily increase.

But once again the biggest gainer was News Corp.'s sole U.S. newspaper, the New York Post, which saw daily circulation rise to 10.2% to 620,080. The Post also notched a double-digit gain when the circulation results for the six months ending last Sept. 30 were announced. In early January the Post initiated same-day distribution in the Los Angeles area, and an aggressive pricing strategy continues to make the daily available for 25ยข within New York City's five boroughs Monday through Friday.

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