Fas-Fax: Steep Declines in Papers’ Circ

Circulation at many of the country’s largest newspapers continued a steep slide as the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) released the latest figures for the six months ending September 2009 this morning, proving yet again that the industry can’t shake the dramatic declines that have taken hold in the past several years.

Check out E&P’s list of the top 25 papers in the nation by circ, here.

USA Today had earlier announced a 17 percent hit. The Wall Street Journal overtook USA Today as the No. 1 daily in the country, according to ABC. Circulation at the Journal was up slightly, 0.6 percent to 2,024,269.

Compared to the same six-month period ending September 2008, daily (Monday-Friday) circulation at The New York Times is down 7.2 percent to 927,851. Sunday fell 2.6 percent to 1,400,302.

The Los Angeles Times reported its daily circ is off 11 percent to 657,467 and 6.7 percent on Sunday to 983,702.

Daily circ at The Washington Post fell 6.4 percent to 582,844 while Sunday was down 5 percent to 822,208.

Daily circ at the Chicago Tribune decreased 9.7 percent to 465,892. Sunday was down 7.1 percent to 803,220.

The San Francisco Chronicle lost more than a quarter of its daily circ, down 25.8 percent to 251,782. Sunday was off more than 22 percent to 306,705.

Daily at The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., dropped 22.2 percent to 246,006 and 18.5 percent on Sunday to 371,060.

The Boston Globe’s daily circ decreased 18.4 percent to 264,105. Sunday lost 16.9 percent to 418,529.

Daily circulation at the Chicago Sun-Times dropped 12 percent to 275,641. Sunday circ at that paper fell 1.8 percent to 251,260. In a statement released this morning, the Sun-Times noted a price increase to 75 cents from 50 cents. Single-copy sales are down while daily home-delivered papers grew 5.5 percent.

The Miami Herald reported a daily circ decline of 23 percent to 162,260. Sunday fell 14.6 percent to 238,613.

Daily circ at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland was down 11.2 percent to 271,180, while Sunday was down 4.9 percent to 390,636.

Daily circulation at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis fell 5.5 percent to 304,543. Sunday was off 8.3 percent to 477,562.

In Houston, the Chronicle’s daily circ declined 14.2 percent to 384,419 while Sunday fell 6.3 percent to 547,387.

Daily circ at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix fell 12.3 percent to 316,874. Sunday was almost flat (-0.8 percent) to 458,992.

The Baltimore Sun’s daily circ dropped 14.7 percent to 186,639. Sunday declined 8 percent to 322,491.

There are several reasons as to why circulation keeps dropping, aside from former readers who have kicked the print edition to the curb. Publishers have been purposely pulling back on certain types of circulation, including hotel, employee and third-party sponsored copies. No longer are they distributing newspapers to the outer reaches of the core market. The cost of delivery and the cost of materials have forced publishers to scale back.

Another shift has occurred: volume has taken a back seat to dollars.

Several major newspapers across the country have aggressively hiked prices of single-copy and home-delivered papers in search of circulation revenue and a renewed focus on loyal readers. Circulation is guaranteed to go down as prices go up, but publishers have opted to wring more revenue from readers as advertisers keep their coffers closed.

Several newspaper companies reported their circulation revenue is on the rise. In Q3, circulation revenue grew 6.7 percent at McClatchy, 11 percent at Media General, and 6.7 percent at The New York Times Co.

A.H. Belo raised home-delivered subscription prices from $21 to $30 on May 1 at its flagship. Daily circulation at The Dallas Morning News dropped 20.8 percent and 15.5 percent on Sunday but executives attributed about 40 percent of home-delivered loss to the price rate increase. The company also trimmed back circulation in other areas as well.

Nielsen Business Media