US newspapers hit as web lures readers

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US newspapers again suffered declines in their measured print readership, with the average daily circulation for 745 US newspapers falling by 2.1 per cent between October and March.

The appetite for print versions of the biggest US newspapers, which are distributed across the country, is proving stronger than that for those focused on some large cities.

The Dallas Morning News had its daily circulation fall by 14.2 per cent, for example, and other sharp declines were at The San Diego Union-Tribune (6.5 per cent) and the Miami Herald (5.5 per cent).

Although the New York Times lost 1.9 per cent of its daily circulation, to 1.12m per day, USA Today increased its tally by 0.2 per cent to 2.28m per day and the Wall Street Journal grew by 0.6 per cent to 2.06m.

The circulation of Sunday newspapers fell more, with the average down 3.1 per cent in the six months ending in March.

The business models for newspapers have come under intense scrutiny and uncertainty as circulation declines lead to falls in advertising too.

Most recently, efforts by Tribune, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, to find a buyer highlighted concerns about the sector’s future after private equity investors failed to bid for it.

The Los Angeles Times lost a further 4.2 per cent of its weekday circulation in the latest six-month period.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, bought by a local advertising executive and widely watched as a experiment in whether papers can stem their losses, reported a 0.6 per cent increase in its daily circulation.

Although newspapers are attracting audiences on the web, now one of the main sources of news, the switch to online readers does not always compensate for the revenues lost from declining print advertising.

The figures reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) represent the fifth consecutive period of decline in average circulation.

“The latest circulation figures are in the range with what we expected,” said John Sturm, president of the Newspaper Association of America.

With so much focus on the web, newspapers are pressing the ABC to include figures for online audiences.

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