Slide in newspaper circulation slows

Circulation at U.S. newspapers continues to slip, though the rate of decline is inching downward.

Figures released Monday show average weekday circulation at U.S. newspapers fell 5% in the six months ended Sept. 30 compared with the same period a year earlier. Sunday circulation was off 4.5%.

That’s not as steep as in the previous six-month reporting period that ended March 31, when weekday circulation skidded 8.7% and weekend sales slumped 6.5%, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.


The rate of decline in weekday circulation fell notably at several large papers in the latest period, including the Los Angeles Times.

Weekday circulation at The Times was down 8.7% to 600,449, an improvement from the 14.7% drop in the prior six-month period. Sales were off 8.4% to 901,119 on Sundays. They slid 7.6% in the prior period.

“These declines were expected and primarily due to efforts to improve our overall operations and financial position,” Eddy Hartenstein, publisher of The Times, wrote in an e-mail to employees. “It’s important to note that the rate of decline is slowing and we are projecting it to continue to slow.”

Weekday circulation sagged 14.1% at the Orange County Register and 11.2% at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Newspaper circulation has fallen sharply in recent years as readers have migrated to free Internet sites for news coverage. Though many of the sites are run by newspapers themselves, the boost in online ad revenue thus far has been too small to offset the drop in print-related spending.

Only two large papers boosted circulation. The Wall Street Journal reported a 1.8% gain, including paid subscribers to its online edition. The Dallas Morning News reported a 0.25% rise.

Many newspaper companies are considering charging for access to their websites to compensate for the loss of paying subscribers to their print editions.

The New York Times plans to implement a system next year that will allow online readers to access a limited number of articles each month free, but require payment after that.