Tuesday, November 02, 2004

U.S. Newspapers See Further Readership Declines

U.S. Newspapers See Further Readership Declines
Mon Nov 1, 2004 06:56 PM ET
By Martha Graybow

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The three best-selling U.S. newspapers have enjoyed an increase in readership this year, although the industry as a whole continues to struggle with falling circulation, new data released on Monday showed.
Overall, the average daily paid circulation for the 841 newspapers reporting twice-yearly data to the Audit Bureau of Circulations slipped 0.9 percent for the six months ended Sept. 30 from the same period last year, according to an analysis of the data by the Newspaper Association of America.
Sunday circulation at the 662 newspapers that reported readership figures fell 1.5 percent, according to the trade group's analysis.
Circulation rose at five of the nine biggest newspapers, the trade group said. That included increases at the three top-selling U.S papers, Gannett Co Inc.,'s USA Today, Dow Jones & Co Inc.'s Wall Street Journal and New York Times Co.'s flagship New York Times.
Average daily circulation at USA Today, which raised its cover price to 75 cents from 50 cents a copy in September, rose to 2,309,853, up 2.8 percent from 2,246,996 a year earlier, according to the data reported to the audit bureau, which monitors newspaper circulation.
Newspaper circulation has drawn scrutiny because of a string of scandals over inflated data uncovered at several major publishers.
The scandals come as newspaper readership has eroded steadily over the past decade, hurt by competition from other media like the Internet that appeal to younger audiences.
The data did not reflect the circulation misstatements at several newspapers caught up in the circulation scandals, including Tribune Co.'s Long Island, New York-based Newsday and Hollinger International Inc.'s Chicago Sun-Times.
"There were some observers that might have anticipated more severe effects than these numbers would seem to suggest," said John Sturm, the newspaper association's president. "These numbers are fairly normal or routine, given the trends that we have seen over the past 10 or 15 years."
Sturm attributed the overall circulation declines largely to new national restrictions on telephone solicitations of new customers. He said the data also did not reflect many publishers' efforts to boost readership in new ways, through online editions or through the launch of new free daily papers aimed at commuters.
The increase at USA Today was due largely to higher sales of the newspaper in hotels and other travel-related locations, according to USA Today spokesman Steve Anderson.
At The Wall Street Journal, circulation rose to 2,106,774, up from 2,091,062 a year ago, helped by an increase in paid subscribers to its online edition.
But not all large papers recorded gains. Tribune Co.'s Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune both recorded declines. Circulation at The Washington Post, published by Washington Post Co., also slipped.
Circulation levels are used by publishers to set advertising rates. They also contribute revenue to newspapers, although typically much less than what publishers bring in from ad sales.