Circulation Plunges at Major Newspapers
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE | New York Times | October 30, 2006Find the following words in the preceding text:
Circulation at the nation’s largest newspapers plunged over the last six months, according to figures released today. The decline, one of the steepest on record, adds to the woes of a mature industry beset by layoffs and the possible sale of some of its flagships.
Overall, average daily circulation for 770 newspapers was 2.8 percent lower in the six-month period ending Sept. 30 than in the comparable period last year, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported. Circulation for 619 Sunday papers fell by 3.4 percent.
But some papers fared much worse. The Los Angeles Times lost 8 percent of its daily circulation, and 6 percent on Sunday. The Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times Company, lost 6.7 percent of its daily circulation and almost 10 percent on Sunday.
The New York Times, one of the few major papers whose circulation held steady over the last few reporting periods, did not emerge unscathed this time: its daily and Sunday circulation each fell 3.5 percent. The Washington Post suffered similar declines.
The Wall Street Journal’s new Weekend Edition, just over a year old, lost 6.7 of its circulation from a year ago.
Both The Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe have been in the news lately as potential owners expressed interest in buying them. The Los Angeles paper is owned by the Tribune Company, which is entertaining offers from private equity firms to sell some of its properties, or perhaps even the whole company. Jack Welch, the former president of General Electric, has expressed interest in buying The Globe.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, which changed hands earlier this year and where the new owner is in the middle of difficult contract negotiations with the paper’s unions, lost 7.6 percent of its daily circulation and 4.5 percent on Sunday.
Newspaper circulation has been in a long, slow decline for decades. But the pace of loss seems accelerated now, as the industry tries to adjust to the steady migration of readers and advertisers to the Internet.
Newspaper executives attribute some of the latest losses to intentional cutbacks in the number of copies that are paid for in bulk by third parties, for example to be distributed to hotel guests. These count as paid circulation but are of less interest to advertisers than copies paid for directly by readers.
Though the industry has felt consecutive declines over the last five years, the Newspaper Association of America said that the figures for the latest period were “the largest variance year over year” of which it was aware.
Still, the association said, when newspaper Web sites are taken into account, the number of readers its members reach is up very sharply. Revenues from Web sites are rising quickly as well, but they account for only a small portion of overall revenues, and it could be decades before Internet revenues exceed those from the printed editions of major newspapers.
One of the few large papers to substantially increase its circulation in the latest report was The New York Post, which managed to squeak past its rival, The Daily News, by about 10,000 copies, and trumpeted the news today on a giant billboard in Times Square.
In fact, both New York tabloids reported increases in circulation, with the Post up by 5.13 percent and the Daily News by 1 percent.
Col Allan, editor of The Post, said his paper was doing well because it has a better sense of what readers want and a sense of humor. He said the Post’s circulation figures were firmer than those of other papers in New York because it sells fewer copies in bulk to third-party sponsors.
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