Weekday newspaper circulation fell 10.6% in the first half of the 2009, while Sunday circulation has slipped 7.5%, compared to the same period a year ago, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, MediaBuyerPlanner reports.
USA Today (NYSE:GCI) in particular was hit by a decrease in circulation, falling from nearly 2.3 million to 1.9 million, or 17.1%. The slump - which was caused by a number of factors including declining hotel occupancy - lost the paper its top spot, in terms of weekday circulation, to the Wall Street Journal (NASDAQ:NWSA).
The Journal - which announced earlier this month that these ABC numbers would confirm it had overtaken USA Today - rose 0.6% in circulation, to just over 2 million. The Wall Street Journal’s online subscriptions are counted in its total circulation.
The New York Times (NYSE:NYT), the country’s third-largest daily, saw its weekday circulation fall 7.3%, to about 928,000. Sunday circulation at The Times is still by far the largest in the country, at 1.4 million, though that number is down 2.7%.
The Los Angeles Times is the fourth largest, with a daily circulation of 657,467. This is a decline of 11.1% vs. a year ago. The Washington Post, the country’s fifth largest paper, has a daily circulation of 582,844, down 6.4% for the period.
The Denver Post and the Seattle Times both saw significant circulation gains after their competitors were shuttered.
The ongoing drop in newspaper circulation is the result of a number of factors, including the migration of readers to the web and the fact that newspapers themselves are paring back distribution in less profitable subscriber areas.
Smaller Papers Fare Better
Smaller papers continue to fare better than their big-city counterparts, partly because local news is less readily available online. The Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif., for example, saw its circulation fall by only 2.7%, to 61,925, while the Pasadena Star-News lost 5.3% of subscribers, or less than half the overall industry rate.
However, though small and mid-size newspapers have suffered fewer losses than big metro dailies and many are holding up well under the circumstances, a study by brokerage firm Cribb, Greene & Associates found that some had recently put themselves up on the auction block for bargain-basement prices and may be ripe for the picking.
ZenithOptimedia’s revised projections for 2009 and 2010 predict that newspaper ad expenditure will continue to decline, and will be at 25% below its 2007 peak by 2011.
The most recent figures from the Newspaper Association of America showed that for Q209, total newspaper ad sales fell 29% to $6.8 billion, down from $9.6 billion last year.