U.S. newspapers continue to shed circulation, even as they grow their digital audiences. According to the new Snapshot report from the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) covering the six months ended March 31, daily circ (including print, digital and, in some cases, branded editions) decreased 0.7 percent year over year, while Sunday circulation declined 1.4 percent.
Among the top dailies, The Wall Street Journal kept its No. 1 position with a total average circ of 2.4 million, up 12.3 percent over March 2012. The New York Times jumped 17.6 percent to 1.9 million in total circulation, overtaking USA Today for second place. (Growth at the Times was mostly digital. Last year, its print and digital circulation were about equal, but this past year, digital circ increased 40 percent to 1.1 million while print circ declined 6 percent to 731,395.)
USA Today’s total average circulation declined 7.9 percent year over year to 1.7 million, knocking it from second to third place. The Los Angeles Times (up 6 percent) and New York Daily News (down 11 percent) rounded out the top five.
The Times remained the biggest daily newspaper in terms of digital circulation, followed by The Wall Street Journal (digital circ rose 62 percent to 898,102), USA Today (up 116 percent to 249,900), the New York Post (up 37 percent to 200,571) and the Denver Post (up 28 percent to 192,805).
Both digital and branded editions are becoming a larger part of overall circulation. Digital editions (including tablet or smartphone apps, PDF replicas, paywall sites or e-reader editions) accounted for 19.3 percent of daily newspapers’ total average circulation, up from 14.2 percent in March 2012, while branded editions (such as commuter, alternative-language or Sunday-Select newspapers) made up about 5.1 percent of daily average circulation, up from 4.5 percent a year ago.
Among Sunday papers, the Times also remained on top, with average circulation (print and digital) increasing 15.9 percent to 2.3 million. Despite a 5.8 percent drop in Sunday circ, the Houston Chronicle came in second. (More than half of the newspaper’s total circulation came from branded editions.) The Los Angeles Times, whose Sunday circ remained flat, was third at 954,010.
This will be the last report in which the AAM is able to compare daily newspapers by their five-day average circulations. Last month, the AAM board passed a rule that will make it optional for newspapers to report five-day averages, saying that it “no longer accurately represents daily newspaper circulation across multiple channels.” The decision was supported by the Newspaper Association of America, whose audience research and training director John Murray told Poynter, “Totaling up the numbers is not a meaningful metric…What advertisers want and use is the detailed breakdown” by day of the week and by category of distribution.