- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Daily circulation fell 2.5 percent at U.S. newspapers in the six-month period ending in March, according to data released yesterday, reflecting the industry’s ongoing struggle to retain paying customers amid competition from the Internet and other media outlets.

The Newspaper Association of America, analyzing data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, also reported that Sunday circulation fell 3.1 percent at the 610 newspapers reporting those figures. The 2.5 percent decline in average paid weekday circulation was based on data from 770 newspapers reporting to the Audit Bureau.

The overall declines in both weekday and Sunday circulation were about the same as those in the previous six-month reporting cycle for the period ending in September.

Newspaper circulation has been in general decline for years as many people, particularly young adults, turn to other media outlets including cable TV and the Internet for news and information. Also, tougher rules on telemarketing have forced newspapers to find other ways to attract new readers.

Despite the decline in paid copies, newspapers are seeing a greater number of visitors to their Web sites. The NAA said newspaper-run sites had an overall 8 percent increase in viewers in the first quarter.

The data from Nielsen/NetRatings found that newspaper Web sites averaged 56 million users in the period, or 37 percent of all online users in the period, the NAA said.

Revenue from online advertising is growing quickly — about 25 percent to 30 percent a year — but still makes up a relatively small portion of newspapers’ overall advertising revenue at about 5 percent, John Kimball, the chief marketing officer of the NAA, told reporters on a conference call.

Most newspapers are showing declining circulation. John Murray, the NAA’s vice president of circulation marketing, said just one in four newspapers showed increases in weekday circulation in the latest reporting period, while one in five had gains on Sunday.

The largest newspapers held up relatively well, with Gannett Co.’s USA Today notching a 0.09 percent gain to 2.27 million copies, remaining the top-selling newspaper in the country. The Wall Street Journal, published by Dow Jones & Co., was second with 2.05 million, down 1 percent, and the New York Times was third, with an increase of 0.5 percent to 1.14 million copies.

The Washington Times’ average daily circulation fell 2.75 percent to 100,179, while The Washington Post dropped 3.7 percent to 724,242.

Several other major papers reported declines, with the largest by far coming at the San Francisco Chronicle, where average paid weekday circulation fell 15.6 percent to 398,246.

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