Most American newspapers continue to lose circulation, according to figures released Monday, but an industry trade group and individual publications countered with statistics showing expanding audiences on their websites.
Weekday circulation at 770 newspapers nationwide equaled 43.7 million a day in the six months ended Sept. 30, down 2.8% from the same period last year, according to the Newspaper Assn. of America. Sunday circulation for 619 newspapers declined 3.4% to 47.6 million. The figures came from data collected by Audit Bureau of Circulations, an independent organization.
The Los Angeles Times joined the vast majority of daily newspapers in reporting declines. The paper's weekday circulation averaged 775,766, down 8% over a year earlier, while Sunday circulation fell 6% to 1,172,005.
The Times attributed the declines to changes in two cut-rate programs. In November, the newspaper eliminated free daily delivery to an average of nearly 29,000 Southern California hotel guests.
In January, the paper increased to 45 cents from 9 cents the rate it charges schools to receive the paper under the Times in Education program. The rate hike triggered a drop in school subscriptions to 20,985 copies on an average weekday from 59,472 copies.
The Times is among many papers that have tried to eliminate cut-rate and free distribution in favor of delivery to customers who seek out the paper.
Times executives said they were heartened that weekday papers delivered to homes and sold at newsstands increased 0.3% to 741,665. Such sales of the Sunday paper declined 2.7% to 1,157,332.
"The September statement reflects our ongoing focus on individually paid circulation," Times Publisher David D. Hiller said. "Our vast reach throughout Southern California remains unsurpassed as does our commitment to serving the evolving needs of our readers."
Like other newspapers, The Times has asked advertisers to judge the paper on its readership, which is bigger than circulation because a single print edition of the newspaper can be read by more than one person.
According to survey data, in the latest six-month period The Times averaged 2.2 million readers on weekdays and 3.3 million on Sunday -- slightly higher than in the year-earlier period.
Newspaper advocates point to similar figures nationally and particularly note an increase in the audience for newspapers' websites.
The Newspaper Assn. of America reported that an average of 57 million people -- well over one-third of Internet users -- visited at least one newspaper website each month in the third quarter of this year, a 24% increase over the same period last year.
"Data that measure the expanded audience is precisely what advertisers want to enhance their understanding of consumer use across newspapers' multiple media platforms," John F. Sturm, the newspaper group's president, said Monday in a statement. "Simply focusing on print circulation numbers in a vacuum obscures that understanding."
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Large newspapers that reported circulation data for six months that ended in September
*--* Newspaper Circulation Change USA Today 2,269,509 -1.3% Wall Street 2,043,235 -1.9% Journal N.Y. Times 1,086,798 -3.5% L.A. Times 775,766 -8% N.Y. Times 704,011 +5.3% Daily News (N.Y.) 693,382 +1% Wash. Post 656,297 -3.3% Chicago 576,132 -1.7% Tribune Houston 508,097 -3.6% Chronicle Newsday 413,579 -4.9%
Source: Editor & Publisher