The organization that keeps up with newspaper circulation released another bleak round of numbers this morning. For the 602 daily newspapers that reported into the Audit Bureau of Circulations, total daily circ plummeted 8.7 percent while Sunday circ for 548 papers fell 6.5 percent for the six months ending March 2010 compared to the same period last year.
There is a familiar phrase echoed to explain the numbers, the same phrase used to describe advertising results: the declines are moderating! At least compared to the six months ending September 2009, when circulation was in a nosedive, with daily down 10.6 percent and Sunday down 7.5 percent.
Sure, some of that is self-inflicted by publishers weeding out certain types of circulation like those freebie copies you might pick up at a big box retailer. But a big chunk of the loss isn’t by choice. The reality is that readers are choosing to go elsewhere.
The good news is the industry is finally trying to make the case that it is more than just pulp and ink and that newspapers reach people through other channels like the Internet and mobile phones. Soon (and hopefully not too late) that data will be a more integral part of the ABC statements.
So that’s why it’s disheartening to see USA Today still try and claim the top spot by splitting hairs. USA Today is the No. 2 newspaper in the country by daily circ — it was knocked down a peg by the Wall Street Journal. The Journal has always been the envy of the industry since it can rightly count some of its paid WSJ.com subs toward its top line circulation number. Yet USA Today is still trumpeting that it remains tops in print circulation. (Headline of their press release reads “USA Today Remains Number One in Total Daily Print Circulation”)