U.S. newspaper circulation is on an accelerated free-fall, according to a report released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. In the six-month period starting last April, circulation declined 10.6 percent, representing increasingly devastating news for an industry already ravaged by decreased subscription rates and skittish advertisers. The Bureau reported a 4.6-percent drop for the same period last year.
The last report, issued by the Bureau in April, showed circulation had weathered a 7.1-percent drop over the previous six-month period starting October 2008. Figures for the reports are based on numbers submitted by more than 375 individual papers. The only paper to post an increase in circulation was the Wall Street Journal, though its numbers were buoyed by its Web site, which requires subscriptions that are included in the data. The 0.6-percent increase, however, seemed to be just enough for the Journal to jump past USA Today as the top-circulated newspaper in the U.S.
But there’s still good news: the Newspaper Association of America released a report Oct. 22 indicating newspaper Web sites attracted 74 million unique monthly viewers in the third quarter of 2009. By contrast, the Journal’s print circulation was 2.02 million, and USA Today dropped 17 percent to 1.9 million. The New York Times came in third with a circulation of 927,851.
But maybe the situation isn’t so dire — maybe people are turning to online news because they are becoming more environmentally conscious. When all the paper’s fold, at least more trees will be safe.