Overall, newspapers saw increased readership of their digital editions, suggesting a continuing shift in reading habits. Circulation of Sunday editions, typically more profitable than weekday papers, also increased.
The Wall Street Journal had average weekday circulation of 2.1 million as of March 31, up 0.02 per cent from a year earlier, including online subscribers, according to the audit bureau. News Corporation owns the Journal. Gannett Co’s USA Today held its second-place rank by average weekday circulation with 1.82 million subscribers, down 0.6 per cent. USA Today had been the biggest paper in the US for a decade, but a slump in business travel has meant fewer copies are sold to hotels, one of the paper’s historic strengths. The Wall Street Journal overtook USA Today by daily average circulation starting in 2009.
The New York Times retained the No 3 rank at 1.6 million weekday readers, an improvement of 73 per cent from a year earlier.
The bulk of the growth came from new subscriptions after an online paywall was established at the Times last year.
Paid digital subscriptions at the paper and its sister publication, International Herald Tribune, increased to 454,000, a 16 per cent gain from the prior quarter, the company said last month.
Newspapers are struggling to grow as more readers turn to the internet for news, a trend publishers were in general slow to capitalise on by establishing online paywalls.
Newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and Pearson’s Financial Times have for years protected their digital content behind paywalls. Gannett introduced paywalls at its local papers earlier this year, while USA Today remains free of charge online.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations cautioned that newspapers were having a harder time measuring their performance against that of their peers, amid a flurry of distribution platforms ranging from bundled subscriptions to mobile applications and branded editions,
The New York Times continued to have the highest Sunday circulation, at two million, up 50 per cent. The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition, published on Saturdays, grew 2.5 per cent to 1.53 million, the company said.
Digital editions accounted for 14.2 per cent of overall US circulation, up from 8.7 per cent in the year-earlier period.
Average weekday circulation for 618 US dailies increased 0.7 per cent, based on a cumulative average for the period ended March 31 from a year earlier.
Circulation for 532 Sunday papers was up 5 per cent in the latest period. Sunday papers tend to be more profitable because of their high circulation and appeal to advertisers.
The latest report is the third to reflect new rules created by a task force of newspaper publishers and advertisers that seek to address circulation issues related to digital editions.
The new rules also aim to show how many copies of newspapers are purchased by individuals, rather than distributed to third parties.