Circulation falls at AJC, other big papers

Circulation fell at nearly all major U.S. newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in the six months ended Sept. 30.

The AJC's average Sunday circulation fell 12.7 percent to 405,549, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Daily circulation dropped 23.4 percent to 214,303. The AJC fell out of the top 25 newspapers for daily circulation; it was 14th in Sunday circulation.

Several business decisions affected circulation. A reduction in distribution area from 74 counties to 20 counties contributed about 30 percent of the daily circulation decline and nearly 60 percent of the decline on Sunday, AJC spokeswoman Jennifer Morrow said. Other factors include increased prices for home delivery and single copy and a sales strategy shift to weekend subscription packages.

AJC Publisher Michael Joseph said these moves were needed to cut costs and cope with a revenue slump, worsened by recession, that pushed the paper into unprofitability. Now, Joseph added, "We're no longer in that same financial situation. We're coming out of it, we have new direction." He said the newspaper is considering whether to add back content readers want.

While circulation declined, the AJC’s average Sunday print readership increased to 1.5 million adults and average daily readership grew to nearly 2 million adults, according to the AJC, citing data from Scarborough Research. Readership includes the number of people that read a copy of the newspaper, whether or not they buy it. The total audience for the AJC’s print and online editions combined was 2.23 million, on par with a year ago and equivalent to 66 percent of the adult population in the Atlanta market, the AJC said.

Among all 379 papers tracked by the Audit Bureau, average daily circulation fell 10.6 percent and Sunday circulation slipped 7.4 percent. Other big dailies with double-digit declines included the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald and Boston Globe. USA Today had a 17 percent decline and was overtaken by The Wall Street Journal as the nation's biggest daily. Circulation at the Journal rose 0.6 percent to just over 2 million.