In Circ: Newspapers making news

With the latest FAS-FAX numbers and quarterly reports rolling in, newspapers and the fate of the industry are once again grabbing headlines.

Average daily circulation at most major dailies is down. The most recent ABC report puts the drop at 4.6% total for the last six months, with 500 papers reporting. The New York Times posted a 3.6% drop for the six months ended September 30, while the Boston Globe, owned by the same parent company, posted a 10% drop. The Globe‘s Sunday circulation is down by 8.4%.

Not all news is bad news, though. The Wall Street Journal kept its circulation flat, at 2 million, increasing its individually paid copies by 2.4% while cutting other paid copies. USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times also have held steady, with weekday circulations of 2.3 million and 313,174, respectively. The Sun-Times boosted Sunday circulation by 3.4%.

Steady numbers may not be as dramatic as some of the drops we’ve seen over the past few months, but, at a time when it is all-too-easy to lose readers, these numbers are a sign that a paper is doing something right. The Journal credits its investment in the brand and revamped Web site with its numbers. The Sun-Times points to innovative marketing ploys and the luck of being home to this year’s news stars: Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama and the playoffs-making Cubs and White Sox.

With rising newsstand costs, shrinking bank accounts and free Internet news at their fingertips, readers need more convincing than ever to pay for an actual paper. To succeed in this war for eyeballs and wallets is a sure sign of good production values and savvy consumer marketing. As budgets and time continue to get pinched, other newspapers will have to step up their game to earn their market share.

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