Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Slump Continues

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Slump Continues

Article excerpt

For the sixth Audit Bureau of Circulations reporting period in a row, metro newspaper circulations remained in an across-the-board slump.

Fifteen of the nation's 25 biggest newspapers reported year-to-year daily circulation decreases in publishers' statements compiled in the Audit Bureau's FAS-FAX report for six months ended March 31.

This latest FAS-FAX also confirms that the Sunday paper has lost the sales punch that sustained so many newspapers through previous lea years. Of the 25 biggest Sunday papers, fully 21 reported circulation declines compared to the same period in 1995.

Despite the sales declines, however, the latest FAS-FAX provided some news for the industry.

For one thing, many of the circulation declines were deliberate, as big-city newspapers continued to pare their distribution reach. Much of the decrease, too, could be traced to higher single-copy and home-delivery prices imposed when newsprint costs soared through 1995. Now that newsprint prices are easing, that should become less of a sales factor.

Indeed, the declines showed signs of slowing, when compared to the deeper decreases of the last ABC reporting period.

The sense of unfinished business permeated many of the circulation results.

For instance, big year-to-year daily circulation declines at Newsday - off 114,536 copies to 555,203 - reflected the shuttering of New York Newsday. Sunday circulation declined 102,305 to 643,421.

The second-biggest daily decline among metro papers was registered by, the Los Angeles Times, which is still shrinking its distribution area and instituted price increases during the past year. The Times was off 37,37- copies to 1,021,121 week-days. Sundays, the paper declined 66,515 to 1,391,076.

Similarly, the biggest gainers benefited from events that unfolded in the past year.

Just as it was in the last FAS-FAX, the Houston Chronicle was far and away, the biggest circulation gainer, thanks to the folding of the rival Houston Post.

Chronicle daily circulation jumped 137,835 copies to 551,553. Its Sunday circulation gained 155,976 to 764,443.

Another big winner was the New York Daily News, which saw its daily circulation grow 32,910 copies to 758,509. …

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