Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — Top U.S. newspapers posted further declines in circulation yesterday with the exception of USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, which have held up better than others as more readers go online.

Apart from those two national dailies, which eked out gains of less than 1 percent each, every other newspaper in the top 20 posted declines, according to figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations for the six-month period ending in March.

USA Today, owned by industry leader Gannett Co., remained the top-selling paper in the country with an average daily circulation of 2,284,219, up 0.3 percent.

The Wall Street Journal kept its No. 2 spot at 2,069,463, up 0.4 percent. Rupert Murdoch”s News Corp. bought the Journal”s parent company Dow Jones & Co. last December.

The New York Times was still No. 3 at 1,077,256, but that was down 3.9 percent from the same period a year earlier. The New York Times Co. also owns the Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune.

The Washington Post was ranked No. 7 with average daily circulation of 673,180, down 3.57 percent from 698,116 a year ago.

At The Washington Times, average daily circulation for the six-month period ended March 31 declined 6.47 percent to 93,775 from 100,257 a year ago.

“A 10,000 decline in third-party bulk sales was nearly offset by a gain of 9,000 new home-delivery subscribers,” said Art Farber, circulation director for The Times. “This is one of the most competitive markets in the United States, and we’re still hanging in there.”

Newspaper circulation has been on a declining trend since the 1980s, but the pace of declines has picked up in recent years as reader habits change and more people go to the Internet for news, information and entertainment.

National newspapers such as USA Today and the Journal have tended to hold their ground better, as have smaller-market dailies where competition from other media like the Internet isn”t usually as intense.

Metropolitan dailies have suffered the worst declines, a trend that continued in the most recent reporting period, with the Dallas Morning News reporting a 10.6 percent drop to 368,313.

The Dallas paper”s corporate owner A.H. Belo Corp., newly spun out of broadcasting company Belo Corp., said as part of its earnings statement yesterday that the company was culling less-valuable circulation such as copies distributed through third parties.

Other metro dailies also posted steep declines, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, down 8.5 percent to 326,907, and the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul, down 6.7 percent to 321,984.

Declines at some other major papers were less severe, with the New York Daily News narrowly keeping the upper hand on its crosstown tabloid rival, Mr. Murdoch”s New York Post.

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