- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Average weekday circulation at U.S. newspapers fell 2.6 percent during the six-month period ended Sept. 30 in the latest sign of trouble in the newspaper business, an industry group reported yesterday.

Sunday circulation fell 3.1 percent at newspapers reporting to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, according to an analysis of the data by the Newspaper Association of America.

The declines show an acceleration of a years-long trend of falling circulation at daily newspapers as more people, especially young adults, turn to the Internet for news and as newspapers cut back on less-profitable circulation.

In the previous six-month reporting period ending in March, weekday circulation fell 1.9 percent at U.S. daily newspapers and Sunday circulation fell 2.5 percent.

Circulation at the country’s three largest newspapers was relatively stable, but many others showed significant declines.

Gannett Co. Inc.’s USA Today, the largest-selling daily, slipped 0.6 percent from the same period a year ago to 2.30 million; the Wall Street Journal, published by Dow Jones & Co., fell 1.1 percent to 2.08 million; and the New York Times Co.’s flagship paper rose 0.5 percent to 1.13 million.

Of the rest of the top 20 newspapers reporting, all but one, the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., posted declines generally ranging between 1 percent and 8 percent.

The San Francisco Chronicle, published by Hearst Corp., posted a 16.4 percent tumble in circulation as the newspaper slashed back on less profitable, heavily discounted and giveaway circulation subsidized by advertisers.

The Washington Times’ weekday circulation slipped to 98,031 for the six months ended Sept. 30, according to Fas-Fax, the Audit of Bureau Circulations report of publishers’ estimates.

That figure was off 1.7 percent from 99,772 a year earlier, the report said.

Richard Amberg Jr., vice president and general manager of The Washington Times, credited some of the decline to changes in telemarketing rules, which made personal sales contacts more difficult.

“Some of the programs that we have planned to counteract that have been slow in developing, but are just coming online now,” Mr. Amberg said.

The newspaper plans to increase new subscriptions through new direct mail, newspaper carrier and store-kiosk campaigns, he said.

Mr. Amberg estimated current circulation is slightly over 106,000. He forecasted the current six-month period, which ends March 31, to close at 105,000 or better.

The Washington Post’s weekday circulation fell 4 percent to 678,779.

Circulation has been steadily declining at newspapers for several years as readers look to other media such as cable TV and the Internet for news.

Newspapers also face sluggish growth in advertising, higher newsprint prices and increasing concern among investors about their growth prospects.

The second-largest newspaper publisher in the country, Knight Ridder Inc., is facing a revolt from two of its top shareholders, who want the company to be sold.

Four newspapers whose circulation was affected by Hurricane Katrina did not file statements with the Audit Bureau.

The four were the Times-Picayune of New Orleans; the American Press in Lake Charles, La.; the Beaumont Enterprise in Texas; and the Daily Leader in Brookhaven, Miss.

• Marguerite Higgins contributed to this report.

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