Monday, November 07, 2005

Newspaper circulation figures show worst slump in years

The Fourth Estate is braced to get more bad news about itself next
week. On Monday, the Audit Bureau of Circulations releases its
semiannual figures on circulation -- and they are expected to show
that paying readers continue to disappear at an alarming rate during
the latest six-month period. Challenged by online rivals, a dearth of
younger readers and an advertising downturn, newspapers are suffering
through their worst slump in years. The last ABC figures, which were
released in May, were the worst for the industry in nine years,
showing that average daily circulation had dropped 1.9 percent in the
six months ended March 31 from a year ago. Indications from the
biggest newspaper publishers show many expect similar plunges for the
six months ended in September. Gannett Co., the nation's No. 1
publisher with about 100 papers, says its daily circulation through
Sept. 25, including its publications in the United Kingdom, was down
2.5 percent over year-ago levels. At No. 2 Knight Ridder Inc. -- whose
largest shareholder has called for the sale of the company -- the
daily drop was 2.9 percent. Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago
Tribune and Los Angeles Times, among others, says its circulation as
reported to ABC will be down around 4 percent. That estimate excludes
figures for Newsday, of Long Island, N.Y., which has been censured by
the ABC following a scandal in which it -- along with several other
newspapers -- admitted artificially boosting circulation results. By
mutual agreement, its circulation won't be released on Nov. 7. Not all
chains are expected to report such big drops. Sacramento-based
McClatchy Co. says daily circulation was down 0.7 percent as of
September, to just under 1.4 million copies. But it also expects
circulation for the full year to fall around 1 percent -- ending 20
consecutive years of circulation growth. The Wall Street Journal,
published by Dow Jones & Co., expects circulation to be up slightly,
because of increases in online readership. ABC in recent years has
allowed the inclusion of certain online readers in circulation
Source: Joseph T. Hallinan, The Wall Street Journal

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