New report: Circulation is up at most U.S. newspapers, but it's skyrocketed at the 'Times' thanks to paid model
10:58 am May. 1, 2012
Digital subscriptions helped the U.S. newspaper industry bump up its overall circulation by .68 percent, and its Sunday circulation by 5 percent, for the six-month period that ended on March 31, 2012, according to the latest data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, released this morning.
The digital gains were most visible in the results of The New York Times, which saw its total average weekday circulation skyrocket more than 73 percent from March of 2011, when it started charging for unlimited access to its website and e-reader editions.
During the most recent A.B.C. reporting period, the Times had an average weekday print circulation of 779,731 and an average weekday digital circulation of 807,026, making it the third-most widely read weekday paper in the country. The digital total includes both readers who have exclusively purchased digital subscriptions and print subscribers who also visit the website everyday. (Print subscriptions come with unlimited digital access; in other words, some people count twice.) The Times has said that as of March, a combined 454,000 people had purchased digital-only subscriptions to the Times and its sister brand, The International Herald Tribune.
The Times, meanwhile, remains the country's most widely read Sunday paper. Sunday circulation shot up nearly 50 percent year-over-year to an average total of roughly 2.01 million. Times executives have previously cited Sunday home delivery increases as an ancillary benefit of the paper's nascent paid digital model, since a certain pool of former non-subscribers are now opting to buy the weekender edition because it also happens to be the most cost-effective route to unlimited digital access. During the six months accounted for in today's A.B.C. report, Sunday home delivery rose nearly 2 percent, according to the Times.
"Our strong performance in the period is a tribute to the success of our digital subscription strategy," said Times president and general manager Scott Heekin-Canedy in a news release.
Today's results are the first in which year-over-year digital data is measurable; A.B.C. adjusted its rules to include digital circulation in 2010, making this the third such reporting period in 18-months. But the bureau, which is the leading auditor of newspaper and magazine audiences, cautioned reporters against "drawing too many direct comparisons of the data" due to the industry-wide shift in how "newspapers now distribute and market their content."
One exception would be The Wall Street Journal, which has long had separate subscriptions for its digital content. The paper, which once again topped the list of the 25 U.S. newspapers with the highest combined print and digital circulation, saw a .02-percent increase in its average weekday circulation, bringing its grand total during the period to roughly 2.12 million, of which 552,288 were digital subs. The Journal, which does not have a Sunday edition, said its weekend circulation increased from last March by 2.53 percent to 1,526,096.
A press release noted that the "expanded audience is met with increased commitments from advertisers: together, WSJ Weekend and WSJ. Magazine have brought 180 new advertisers to the Journal franchise – nearly 40% of which have expanded their advertising to other platforms within the franchise."
New York's tabloids also logged circulation gains. Average weekday circulation for the Daily News rose 9.17 percent to 579,636, though the paper slipped down a notch in the overall ranking to No. 5 on the list of top combined circulation, finishing (in order) behind The Journal, USA Today, The Times and The Los Angeles Times. Its Sunday circulation shot up a little more than 13 percent to 584,658. It also finished third in the industry in terms of digital circulation.
The New York Post maintained its seventh-place position with a total average weekday circulation of 555,327 (up 6.21 percent); its total average Sunday circulation of 434,392 was up 22.1 percent from March of 2011.
In terms of print circulation, the Post was ahead of the News on weekdays 408,579 to 400,061, but the News kept up its long-held Sunday lead by a margin of 480,131 to 287,089.
You can view the full A.B.C. results here.
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