By ANICK JESDANUN
NEW YORK (AP) – Circulation at the nation’s daily newspapers is falling faster than anticipated this year as readers continue their migration to the Internet and papers narrow their distribution to cut costs.
The development, which compounds the fiscal challenge of plummeting advertising revenue, was revealed Monday when the Audit Bureau of Circulations released sales totals reported by newspapers for April through September.
Combined weekday circulation of all 507 papers that reported circulation totals this year and last averaged 38,165,848 in the six months ending in September, 4.6 percent below 40,022,356 a year earlier. The aggregate drop was only 2.6 percent in the September 2007 period, compared with September 2006.
Sunday circulation fell faster than daily – 4.8 percent, to 43,631,646 at the 571 papers with comparable totals. A year ago, Sunday circulation fell 3.5 percent.
Daily circulation at 16 of the 25 largest papers fell more than 5 percent in the latest period.
Circulation has been dropping at newspapers for decades, a trend sped up by readers shifting to the Internet. Newspapers also have lost advertising in recent years because of the Internet, and that decline accelerated this summer as the weak economy prompted advertisers to pull back on spending.
To boost revenue, many papers also have increased prices, a move that has caused small circulation drops.
This year’s sharpening circulation drop also appears to result in part from the way papers are responding to losing ad revenue, said Rick Edmonds, media analyst at the journalism think tank Poynter Institute.
“Times are tough, and they are looking at everything that’s in their expense base,” he said. “Building new subscribers is an expensive proposition.”
Consider The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where circulation declined 13.6 percent, the largest drop among the 25 largest papers.
The paper increased prices and reduced its distribution footprint by a third to 49 counties. Some of the counties dropped weren’t even in Georgia and were more expensive to reach, said Bob Eickhoff, the paper’s senior vice president for operations.
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