Circulation drop at Globe, US newspapers slows

Decline expected, news officials say

By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / October 26, 2010

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Circulation losses at The Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and many other newspapers around the country slowed in the six-month period that ended in September as papers focused on reaching readers in print, online, and through mobile devices.

Average daily newspaper circulation nationwide was down 5 percent during the six months ending Sept. 30, compared with the same period last year, according to new figures reported yesterday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That’s better than the 8.7 percent drop in the previous reporting period, from October 2009 to March.

The results are in line with expectations, said John F. Sturm, chief executive of the nonprofit Newspaper Association of America.

“What counts is that newspaper companies continue to retain their most loyal and engaged readers even as they increase print circulation pricing to rebalance their revenue streams,’’ Sturm said in a statement yesterday.

The Globe’s daily circulation dropped 15.6 percent to 222,683, while its Sunday circulation dropped 12 percent in the period to 368,303. The New York Times Co. owns the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and its namesake, The New York Times.

The Globe’s publisher, Christopher M. Mayer, said in a memo to the paper’s staff that the lower circulation figures were expected after the newspaper raised prices last summer in most areas by 30 to 50 percent to increase revenue.

He noted that the rate of daily and Sunday circulation declines between the new reporting period and the previous six-month reporting period last March is smaller. In that comparison, the declines at the Globe were 4.2 percent for daily circulation and 2.8 percent for Sunday. He also noted that local traffic to the Globe’s website,, grew by 2.9 percent.

In total, has 6.1 million unique monthly visitors, according to the audit bureau.

“The good news is the rate of circulation decline has slowed as we cycle through the impact of the price increases,’’ Mayer said.

The Herald’s daily circulation fell 9.8 percent to 124,691 compared with the same period a year ago, while its Sunday circulation fell 5.6 percent to 90,222. Gwen Gage, a Herald spokeswoman, said, “Our audience of 1.3 million readers bears out the importance of the Herald in Boston — whether it’s read in its traditional form, online, or on both platforms.’’

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, daily circulation at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette fell 9.3 percent, while its Sunday edition was down 9.3 percent. Daily circulation at The Patriot Ledger of Quincy dropped 10.2 percent, while its weekend edition — a combined Saturday and Sunday paper — dropped by 6.1 percent.

In Rhode Island, The Providence Journal’s daily circulation declined 9.6 percent, while Sunday fell 10.9 percent.

Nationally, daily circulation at The Wall Street Journal, owned by News Corp., grew by 1.8 percent, while USA Today lost 3.6 percent. Daily circulation at The New York Times declined 5.5 percent; its Sunday edition fell 3.4 percent.

Ed Atorino, a media analyst with The Benchmark Co. in New York, said the results are improving because many newspapers cut back their distribution last year to reduce costs, which contributed to a steeper circulation decline then.

“It was pretty bad a year ago,’’ he said. “We are getting a little bit more of normal consolidation.’’

The new figures come as the audit bureau plans to change how it measures the different ways that readers consume newspapers and their content online. With the new system, total circulation will broken into two categories: paid circulation for newspaper copies that are bought by the consumer, and verified circulation for copies that are bought by third parties, such as colleges. The audit bureau, which already breaks out circulation for electronic editions, will also give more details on how these editions are accessed, whether through a website that requires reader registration, an e-reader, or a mobile device.

The changes will be reflected in the next reporting period in March.

Johnny Diaz can be reached at