- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Weekday circulation at U.S. daily newspapers fell 2.1 percent in the latest six-month reporting period, according to figures released yesterday, in the latest sign that people are turning to the Internet and other media for news.

Comparable figures for Sunday newspapers fell 3.1 percent for the six months ended in March, according to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), an industry group. The calculations are based on reports that newspapers deliver to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Performance was mixed among the 10 largest newspapers, with several showing declines of 2 percent to 4 percent and a few showing gains, most notably the New York Post, which is locked in fierce competition with the New York Daily News.

Those two papers had the largest gains among the major dailies, with the Post’s average weekday circulation rising 7.6 percent over the same period a year earlier, while the Daily News rose 1.4 percent.

The New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate News Corp., recently announced that it would double its weekday price as of Monday to 50 cents. The Daily News, owned by the real estate developer Mortimer Zuckerman, charges 50 cents on weekdays.

Gannett Co.’s USA Today remained the largest daily in the country, with circulation of 2.28 million, up 0.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, ahead of the Wall Street Journal at 2.06 million, up 0.6 percent.

The Dallas Morning News, owned by Belo Corp., posted a 14.3 percent decline to 411,919, reporting for the first time since being censured in 2004 for misstating its circulation figures. The newspaper is the 11th-largest in the U.S., according to the report.

A Belo spokesman said about half of the decline was because of a decision to cut back the circulation area of the newspaper to within about 100 miles of Dallas as well as reductions in third-party circulation.

Newsday, based in New York’s Long Island, had a 6.9 percent decline to 398,231. That paper, owned by Tribune Co., also had been censured for misstating circulation but returned to reporting circulation for the period ended in March 2006. That paper is No. 12 in the U.S. for the last reporting period.

The Chicago Sun-Times remains the only major newspaper that had been censured by the Audit Bureau for misstatements in 2004 and has not resumed reporting.

The Sun-Times’ parent company had previously been known as Hollinger International Inc., run by the now-deposed press baron Conrad Black, and is now known as the Sun-Times Media Group Inc.

The Washington Post’s weekday circulation fell 3.5 percent to 699,130.

Meanwhile, daily circulation at The Washington Times was up to 100,258 from 100,028 a year ago.

“We had a slight gain and we’re very happy with that compared to what’s been a very disappointing performance by newspapers across the country,” General Manager Richard Amberg Jr. said. “We’ve been concentrating on retention of existing subscribers, we are increasing our emphasis on home delivery, and we’ve had a nice increase in electronic newspaper sales.”

He added: “I have to believe that our maintaining the high quality of the paper was also a factor. That, regrettably, was not the case at some papers that cut staff, pages and content.”

Newspaper circulation has been declining steadily for years amid changing reader habits and the emergence of other media for news, particularly 24-hour cable TV news and the Internet.

However, the average weekday decline of 2.1 percent in the latest period was not as steep as the fall of 2.8 percent reported for the six-month period ended in October, or the six months ended in March 2006, when the decline was 2.5 percent.

Many newspapers are attracting readers and advertising dollars through their Web sites, but the growth in online revenue is generally outweighed by declines in print advertising, which still makes up the vast majority of newspapers’ business.

Online readership of newspaper sites continues to grow. The NAA pointed to recently released data from Nielsen/NetRatings showing a 5.3 percent increase in the number of people who visited newspaper Web sites in the first quarter of 2007.

• Staff writer Kara Rowland contributed to this article from Washington.

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