Newspaper circulation falls 3.6 percent

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. newspaper circulation fell 3.6 percent in the latest set of figures released by an industry group on Monday, reflecting a migration of readers to the Internet and publishers’ efforts to streamline their businesses.

Spectators wait for Pope Benedict XVI motorcade to pass along 87th Street in New York, April 18, 2008. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

The figures were released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations and compared the six months ending in March 2008 with the same period a year earlier.

Weekday paid circulation at many of the top 25 U.S. papers fell, though some papers, including Gannett Co Inc’s USA Today and News Corp’s Wall Street Journal, reported gains of less than 1 percent.

Weekday circulation at The New York Times fell 3.85 percent while Tribune Co’s Los Angeles Times reported a drop of 5.13 percent.

The New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, reported a drop of 3.07 percent, while the New York Daily News, owned by tabloid rival Mortimer Zuckerman, posted a 2.09 percent drop. The Daily News reported circulation of 703,137, slightly ahead of the Post at 702,488.

Murdoch and Zuckerman are vying to buy the Newsday newspaper on Long Island from Tribune. That paper reported a 4.68 percent drop in circulation to 379,613 copies.

Sunday circulation fell 4.6 percent overall. The New York Times and the New York Daily News both saw Sunday circulation fall more than 9 percent. At Newhouse Newspapers’ The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, Sunday circulation declined 12 percent.

The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News reported a combined drop of 14.79 percent. The Denver Post is owned by privately held MediaNews Group Inc. The Rocky Mountain News is published by EW Scripps Co.

The weekday results include more than 530 papers. The Sunday results include nearly 600 papers.

The Sunday circulation drop represents to some extent a deliberate effort to cut back on the number of copies of the paper they are putting out on the weekend, said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“Maintaining high levels of circulation requires lots of introductory offers and most of those folks don’t renew,” Edmonds said, adding that attempts to keep that level high through such offers can cost more money than it is worth.

The New York Times is an example of one of those papers, spokeswoman Diane McNulty said. “In the past, we offered discounts, and a lot of those folks, though, as soon as the price went up, they dropped,” she said.

Editing by Maureen Bavdek