U.S. newspaper circulation plunge accelerates

NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters) - The plunge in U.S. newspaper circulation is accelerating, according to the latest figures released on Monday, as more people cancel their subscriptions and publishers cut distribution and sales of discounted copies.

Average weekday circulation at 379 daily newspapers fell 10.6 percent to about 30.4 million copies for the six months that ended on Sept. 30, 2009 from the same period last year, according to the U.S. Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The pace of decline more than doubled compared with last year. From September 2007 to September 2008, circulation fell 4.6 percent.

Sunday circulation, which was measured at 562 papers, fell 7.5 percent to 40 million copies. Last year’s Sunday decline was 4.9 percent. None of the top 25 papers by circulation made any Sunday gains in the latest figures.

The results measure paid circulation and are a key measure for businesses deciding where to spend their advertising dollars. Newspaper publishers want advertisers to measure readership -- the number of people estimated to read a copy of the paper -- a number that is growing at most papers.

Circulation at only one U.S. paper rose among the top 25; News Corp’s Wall Street Journal said circulation rose 0.6 percent to 2.02 million.

It took the top position in size after Gannett Co Inc GCI.N reported a 17 percent circulation decline for USA Today as hotels cut back free copies of the paper.

News Corp fared less well with the New York Post, whose weekday circulation fell almost 19 percent. Its daily tabloid rival New York Daily News, owned by Boston Properties BXP.N co-founder Mort Zuckerman, reported a 14 percent decline.

The New York Times's NYT.N daily circulation fell 7.3 percent, while Sunday circulation, where it is the No. 1 paper in the U.S., fell 2.7 percent. The Boston Globe, which the Times until this month was trying to sell, reported an 18.5 percent decline.

Among other top 10 U.S. dailies, Tribune Co's TRBCQ.PK Los Angeles Times posted an 11-percent drop and the Chicago Tribune fell 9.7 percent. The Washington Post WPO.N reported a 6.4-percent drop on weekdays and a 5-percent drop on Sunday.

Three top 25 papers, The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, Hearst Corp's San Francisco Chronicle and AH Belo's AHC.N Dallas Morning News, reported declines of more than 20 percent.

Mostly smaller papers populated the list of top gainers. The best was the York Daily Record in southern Pennsylvania with a 16.5 percent weekday rise. Others included the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the New Haven Register in Connecticut and the Fargo Forum in North Dakota. (Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Derek Caney)