Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspaper Circulation Report

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspaper Circulation Report

Article excerpt

FOR THE NATION'S biggest newspapers, the recent round of price increases and shrinkages in circulation areas -- both forced by soaring newsprint prices -- have been followed by yet another period of declining newspaper sales.

According to publishers' statements compiled in the Audit Bureau of Circulations' FAS-FAX report for the six-month period ended Sept. 30, 1995, 11 of the top 25 daily newspapers lost circulation -- and two of the biggest papers, the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, did not even report results because their circulation systems were thrown into chaos by the strike that began July 13.

And as it has been for some time now, Sunday results were just about as disappointing: 16 of the top 25 Sunday papers showed losses against the same period last year.

This latest FAS-FAX marked the fifth period of virtually across-the-board circulation decreases for big-city newspapers.

This time around, there were some standout winners and losers.

The big winner: the Houston Chronicle, which capitalized on the folding of the rival Houston Post and saw its average daily circulation zoom 132,471 copies -- or 32%. Sunday Chronicle circulation was also up big, increasing 135,554 copies to 743,689.

The increase catapulted the Chronicle into the top 10 biggest newspapers for the first time in its 94-year history.

Another big winner was USA Today.

The "Nation's Newspaper," as it styles itself, celebrated its 13th birthday with a 57,674-copy increase to its Monday through Thursday circulation. With an average circulation of 1,523,610 -- a figure that does not include its substantial bulk sales program -- USA Today is solidly the second biggest newspaper in the country, and is narrowing the gap between it and the largest, the Wall Street Journal.

The nationally circulated Journal reported a 17,282-copy decline to 1,763,140. In the year since September 1994, the gap between Gannett's USA Today and Dow Jones & Co.'s Journal has narrowed from 314,486 then to 239,530 now.

If USA Today's separately reported Friday edition -- which stays on the stands until it is replaced by Monday's paper -- were considered a Sunday paper, it would be the biggest one by far.

On Fridays, USA Today reported an average circulation of 1,936,250, a gain of 42,480. By contrast, the nation's best-selling Sunday paper, the New York Times, reported a year-to-year loss of 52,834 copies, for a total circulation of 1,667,780.

Once again, the big loser in the latest FAS-FAX report was Newsday, which shuttered its unprofitable New York Newsday edition during the reporting period.

Newsday's daily circulation declined 58,929 copies to 634,627 and took an even bigger hit on Sundays, when circulation decreased an average 77,598 copies over the year to 702,031.

New York City's three remaining major daily newspapers did not appear to profit much, in terms of circulation, from New York Newsday's demise.

The Times was down both on Sundays and weekdays, with daily circulation off 32,627 copies to 1,081,541. The New York Daily News was down weekdays -- off 14,933 to 738,091 -- but up modestly on Sundays, which increased an average 15,046 copies to 979,076.

Gotham's other surviving tabloid, the New York Post, gained 8,386 copies over the year to report a daily circulation of 413,705.

There were no regional trends in this latest FAS-FAX. Instead, the majority of circulation dips could reasonably be laid at the feet of newsprint. …

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