US newspapers see huge falls in circulation

NEW YORK - As publishers weigh charging for online content they have more to think about this week as 15 out of the 25 biggest US newspapers saw their circulation drop by more than 10% in the last year.

Only the Wall Street Journal, which sits pretty with its paid-for website, showed a gain, alongside the Denver Post and Seattle Times, which benefited from the closure of competitors*.

Hardest hit of all was the San Francisco Chronicle, the Hearst-owned title whose closure has long been threatened, saw its circulation plummet by 25.8% to 251,782 from 339,430 a year ago. It is half the size it was six years ago.

Another two big casualties are The Star Ledger Newark and the Dallas Morning News, which both fell by fell 22.2%

The New York Times, which recently announced more than 100 job cuts, managed to keep its decline under 10%, but it still lost 7.28% of its circulation, taking it below the psychological figure of 1m to 927,851.

The New York Times is still considering how it will charge for content. A number of readers responding recently to news of the lay-offs express their support for a pay wall.

One wrote: "I want to pay for my online use of the New York Times. I read the site multiple times a day"; "SHUT OFF your website. Stop giving the news away for free"…and another "Well, there is a solution to layoffs - start charging for online content, I’d pay….seriously. Why not?".

One of the more modest falls was that of Newsday, which dropped 5.4% to 357,124. That news will be welcomed by the Long Island tabloid that is to be the first to end free access to most of its website with a plan to make content available to people who subscribe to the print edition or to those willing to pay a $5 a week.

New York's tabloid titles took a much bigger hit. The New York Daily News was down 13.98% to 544,167 while Rupert Murdoch's New York Post fell 18.77% to 508,042.

Murdoch, however, had the success of The Wall Street Journal to celebrate. Its circulation was up 0.6% to 2,024,269 helped by 400,000 digital-only subscribers.

News Corporation's gain with the WSJ was Gannett's loss as the figures confirmed that USA Today had slipped to second place in the US newspaper market after more than a decade at the top. USA Today was down 17.5% to 1,900,116 from almost 2.3m a year earlier.

The Los Angeles Times, which has suffered a number of heavy cuts, saw its circulation drop 11% to 657,000. In 2000 it was selling more than one million copies.

Over all average daily newspaper circulation for the six months to September 30 was down by around 11% according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The pace of decline appears to be speeding up with declines in advertising and editorial budgets all influencing factors.

Hand in hand with the rate of print decline has been the rise in the numbers reading papers online. US newspapers attracted 72m unique monthly visitors, according to Nielsen Online, up from 60m two years previously.

Wall Street Journal    2,024,269    0.61%
USA Today        1,900,116    -17.15%
New York Times    927,851    -7.28%
Los Angeles Times    657,467    -11.05%
Washington Post    582,844    -6.40
New York Daily News    544,167    -13.98%
New York Post        508,042    -18.77%
Chicago Tribune    465,892    -9.72%
Houston Chronicle    384,419    -14.24%
Philadelphia Inquirer    361,480    N.A.
San Francisco Chronicle 251,782    -25.8%
Star Ledger Newark 246,006        -22.2%
Dallas Morning News 263,810    -22.2%
Boston Globe         264,105    18.5%
USA Today         1,900,116    -17.1%
Arizona Republic     316,874     -12.3%
Oregonian        249,163     -12.1%
The Denver Post     340,949    +61.9%
Seattle Times         263,588    +32.6%
Newsday         357,124    -5.4%

* Seattle Post Intelligencer
*Rocky Mountain News

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