Stubborn Recession Begins Sinking Circulations; 15 of the 25 Biggest Daily Newspapers Report Circulation Decline in Year-to-Year Measurement

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Stubborn recession begins sinking circulations

15 of the 25 biggest daily newspapers report circulation decline in year-to-year measurement

After spiking upward during the Persian Gulf war, daily newspaper circulations have begun slumping again, dragged down by the stubborn recession.

Fifteen of the 25 biggest daily papers lost circulation, as measured year-to-year in the latest FAS-FAX report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Most of the rest saw only modest average gains during the six-month period ended Sept. 30, 1991.

An even more worrisome trend emerges from the latest FAS-FAX, however: Disappearing circulation.

That is most evident in the results from New York City, the first complete figures since the end of the New York Daily News strike.

Not surprisingly, the Daily News reported a huge drop since the period ended Sept. 30, 1990. Daily circulation was down 335,615 to 762,078, the tabloid reported.

For rival tabloids, the Daily News' loss was their gain. Newsday -- including New York Newsday and its Long Island editions -- reported its circulation was up 49,844 to 763,972.

The New York Post also showed big gains, up 42,008 to 552,227.

For its part, the New York Times appeared little affected by the tabloid changes. Its circulation, including the national edition, was up a modest 6,383 to 1,114,830.

All those gains added up, however, do not amount to even 100,000 average copies. It is clear that more than 235,000 in former Daily News circulation did not go to New York City metro newspapers.

How much went to other papers is not certain. What is likely is that at least some of that disappearing circulation represents another bit of newspaper readership gone forever.

Similarly, more than a quarter of a million copies of the News' lost Sunday circulation cannot be traced to gains by its rivals.

The strike's effect on the Sunday News was monumental: The 489,716 average copies lost over the past year would be sufficient to capture 22nd place on the list of top 25 Sunday circulations.

Looked at another way, the News lost the entire circulation of a newspaper the size of the Sunday Baltimore Sun over the year.

The latest FAS-FAX does indicate the New York Daily News is making some progress in rebounding from the strike, however.

Though the figures are not strictly comparable, the latest numbers represent an average increase of about 8,000 in daily circulation and nearly 24,000 on Sundays from the interim results submitted to ABC this summer for the three-month period ended June 30.

There appears to be a certain amount of disappearing circulation in the Detroit area, as well.

Nearly two years into their joint operating agreement, both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News have seen their daily circulations fall, reporting period after reporting period. …