- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Circulation declines at the nation’s newspapers are speeding up.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations said Monday that average daily circulation declined 7.1 percent in the October-March period from the same six-month span in 2007-2008. The latest figure represents data from 395 daily U.S. newspapers that reported in both the current and year-ago periods.

The most recent drop was faster than the 4.6 percent fall recorded in the April-September period of 2008 and the 3.6 percent fall recorded in the October 2007-March 2008 span.

USA Today remains the No. 1 newspaper, though it suffered the steepest circulation drop in the publication’s history. It sank 7.5 percent to 2,113,725 after several periods with little change. The Gannett Co.-owned newspaper attributed the falloff mostly to a drop in hotel occupancy and to a December price increase for copies sold at newsstands.

The Wall Street Journal, the second-largest newspaper, was the only one in the top 25 to raise its daily circulation. It increased less than 1 percent to 2,082,189. The New York Times’ daily circulation fell 3.6 percent to 1,039,031, while the Los Angeles Times saw a drop of 6.6 percent to 723,181.

Sunday circulation fell 5.4 percent in the latest period, based on data from 557 U.S. newspapers that reported in both the current and year-ago periods.

The Washington Times’ total average paid daily circulation defied the industry trend, increasing more than 3 percent during the past six months from 80,998 (April through September 2008) to 83,511 (October 2008 through March 2009). Sunday circulation increased from 37,816 to 43,889 over the same period.

“We’re cooking,” said Frank Grow, vice president of strategic development and circulation for The Washington Times. “I attribute our growth in circulation to an improvement in our product and tighter marketing in our demographic area, and we expect this trend to continue.”

Newspaper sales overall have been declining since the early 1990s, but the drop has accelerated in recent years. Circulation revenue has largely held up, though, because of price increases. The publications have been hurt more by drops in advertising sales, which represent the bulk of revenue at most newspapers.

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