Newspaper Circulation Shifting to Digital

newspaper circulationThe semi-annual report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) which includes high-level circulation data for newspapers during the prior six months (ending September 30, 2012 for the most recent report) has been released. The report shows that newspaper circulation is shifting to digital (defined by ABC as tablet or smartphone apps, PDF replicas, metered or restricted-access websites, or e-reader editions). No doubt this trend is not surprising to anyone, but the report quantifies the shift.

Overall newspaper circulation changed little over the six month period ending September 20, 2012. The data shows that circulation dropped by just 0.2% for the 613 daily newspapers included in the report and increased by 0.6% for the 528 Sunday papers in the report. The big news came from the aforementioned digital shift.

According to the data in the ABC report, paid digital has increased to 15.3% of total circulation. That’s a 56% increase over the 9.8% reported a year ago for paid digital. Given the fact that overall circulation rates changed little during the same time period, it can be assumed that newspapers aren’t losing subscribers but rather that subscribers are shifting away from print to digital.

With the rise in digital news consumption showing no signs of slowing down, newspapers are rolling out paid subscription offerings faster than ever. According to Rick Edmonds of The Poynter Institute, more than 300 papers now charge for digital. Seventy of Gannett’s 80 community papers have already switched to digital pay plans, and the 30 papers from McClatchy are beginning to roll out their own digital pay plans, too.

The Top Ten Lists

Following are the top 10 U.S. daily newspapers during the six month period ending on September 30, 2012 as reported by ABC:

  1. The Wall Street Journal
  2. USA Today
  3. The New York Times
  4. The Los Angeles Times
  5. The New York Daily News
  6. The San Jose Mercury News
  7. The New York Post
  8. The Washington Post
  9. The Chicago Sun Times
  10. The Denver Post

Following are the top 10 U.S. Sunday newspapers during the six month period ending on September 30, 2012 as reported by ABC:

  1. The New York Times
  2. The Houston Chronicle
  3. The Los Angeles Times
  4. The Chicago Tribune
  5. The Dallas Morning News
  6. The Detroit Free Press
  7. The Washington Post
  8. The New York Daily News
  9. The San Jose Mercury News
  10. The Denver Post

Following are the top 10 U.S. daily newspapers with digital editions during the six month period ending on September 30, 2012 as reported by ABC:

  1. The New York Times
  2. The Wall Street Journal
  3. The New York Post
  4. The Denver Post
  5. The Los Angeles Times
  6. The New York Daily News
  7. The Newark Star LEdger
  8. Newsday
  9. The Los Angeles Investors Business Daily
  10. The Houston Chronicle

Image: David Resseguie

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