While U.S. newspapers wage a long-standing fight for print advertising and subscribers, they managed a slight gain in circulation, fueled by increases in digital circ.
According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ latest twice-annual report on newspaper circulation, average daily circ for 618 measured newspapers rose 0.68 percent, with Sunday circulation for 532 papers rising 5 percent. The report compares the six months ended March 31, 2012, to the year-ago period.
On average, digital circ accounted for 14.2 percent of newspapers' total circulation in the six-month period—up from 8.7 percent a year earlier. Digital circulation could include tablet and smartphone apps, replica PDFs, e-reader editions and restricted-access websites.
The biggest beneficiary of this trend was The New York Times, whose total average circ soared 73 percent to 1.6 million. The Times’ digital circ, at 807,026, surpassed its print circulation of 779,731. The Times attributed the gain mainly to its one-year-old metered paywall, which incentivizes readers to subscribe to the print edition to gain access to the newspaper in digital platforms, as well as new rules on reporting digital circulation.
The ABC has made major rule changes in the past 18 months to reflect the evolution by newspapers to adapt to the digital landscape, and this report marks the first that reflects those changes year over year. Those changes include the inclusion of “verified” circulation and branded editions, along with new ways to report digital editions.
Combining print and digital circulation, The Wall Street Journal remains the top newspaper with 2.1 million total average circulation, essentially flat year over year. USA Today was the biggest in terms of print-only, which was 1.7 million. Looking at combined print and digital, USA Today was No. 2 at 1.8 million, down just under 1 percent. The Times came in at No. 3 in both total circulation and print-only.