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Digital editions prop up newspaper circulation

Published October 30, 2012 8:04 pm

Media • A third of Tribune's subscribers get paper electronically.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

U.S. newspaper circulation was almost unchanged in the six months that ended in September as publications continued to make gains in digital editions, according to data from a media industry group.

Average daily circulation for print and digital editions combined fell 0.2 percent for the 613 newspapers included in the semiannual study by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Sunday circulation for the 528 newspapers in Tuesday's report increased 0.6 percent.

In Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune continued as the state's biggest daily paper, although daily circulation slipped 2.9 percent. The Tribune's Monday-through-Friday circulation was 102,691. Sunday circulation was 135,550, up 10.4 percent. The Tribune's daily circulation includes 24,611 subscribers to the paper's electronic edition, and another 9,849 readers who get the publication through other digital means. Those subscribers account for 33.6 percent of the paper's daily circulation.

Daily circulation at the Deseret News jumped 31.8 percent, to 91,639, mostly because of a large increase in access through mobile apps and other electronic avenues to the paper's content. Sunday circulation jumped 88 percent as the News's strategy to put out a national edition through client newspapers around the country continued to kick in.

The Wall Street Journal kept its position as the No. 1 newspaper. Its average circulation grew 9.4 percent, to 2.3 million, largely because more readers are paying to read content on its website and mobile devices. Digital circulation grew about 257,000 from a year ago, more than making up for a loss of nearly 60,000 print readers.

USA Today was the second-biggest U.S. paper, at 1.7 million, down 3.9 percent. USA Today, which is owned by Gannett Co., remained the No. 1 print newspaper, with a higher circulation than the Journal after digital editions are excluded. Unlike the Journal, USA Today doesn't charge for website access. Its digital circulation is limited to other products, such as subscriptions on Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle.

The New York Times followed at 1.6 million, a 40 percent increase. More than half of the Times' circulation was for digital editions, including subscriptions for full access to the Times' website and mobile apps. The company attributed the gains to the growing popularity of its digital editions and to new rules giving publications more flexibility to count as multiple subscriptions the same person's usage on multiple outlets, such as the website and a Kindle.

The Times was the leading Sunday newspaper, with a circulation of 2.1 million. The Journal and USA Today do not have Sunday editions.

Circulation numbers affect advertising rates at newspapers, particularly for printed editions. Print advertising revenue has been declining in recent years as readers and advertisers shift to the Internet. The economic downturn accelerated the decline. Some newspapers have seen growth in digital ad revenue, but it hasn't been enough to offset the losses in print advertising.