Paywalls Boost Some Newspaper Circulations

Once the preserve of a select few major metro dailies, digital paywalls have been implemented aggressively by publishers over the last year, helping boost daily circulation figures at a range of publications

Yet progress was uneven at best, with many newspapers still suffering substantial declines — especially at the regional level, notes the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations).

While publications of all sizes have benefited from digital subscription strategies, big names continued to lead the way. The Wall Street Journal maintained its lead as the country’s biggest daily newspaper, with weekday circulation increasing 12.3% from 2,118,315 in the six-month period ending March 2012 to 2,378,827 in the six-month period ending March 2013.

Over the same period, The New York Times saw total weekday circulation jump 17.6% from 1,586,757 to 1,865,318, and the Los Angeles Times, which implemented its own digital paywall last year, increased 6% from 616,575 to 653,868. The Chicago Sun-Times saw weekday circ grow 11.6% from 421,780 to 470,548.

Among regional dailies, sizeable increases in weekday circulation were seen at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, up 32.6% from 174,251 to 231,094; the Tampa Tribune, up 32.6% from 144,391 to 191,477; the Newark Star-Ledger, up 22.2% from 278,940 to 340,778; the Orange County Register, up 27.1% from 280,812 to 356,165.

In bigger metro areas: The Boston Globe, up 8.9% from 225,482 to 245,572; the Cleveland Plain Dealer, up 8.8% from 286,405 to 311,605; the San Diego Union Tribune, up 8.7% from 230,578 to 250,678; the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, up 6.9% from 185,709 to 198,469; the Houston Chronicle, up 4.1% from 346,129 to 360,251; and the Denver Post, up 3.8% from 401,120 to 416,676.

Unfortunately, there was still plenty of bad news to go around, especially among dailies (of all sizes) without online paywalls.

USA Today’s weekday circ dropped 7.9% from 1,817,446 to 1,674,306, and both Big Apple tabloids took major hits, with weekday circ at New York’s Daily News down 10.9% from 579,636 to 516,165, while rival New York Post fell 9.9% from 555,327 to 500,521. The Washington Post slipped 6.5% from 507,615 to 474,767.

Regional dailies took some of the biggest hits.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s weekday circ tumbled 20.3% from 118,978 to 94,775; the Nashville Tennessean was down 15% from 118,589 to 100,825; the St. Louis Post-Dispatch fell 11.2% from 187,992 to 167,199; the Cincinnati Enquirer fell 9.8% from 144,165 to 129,901; the Phoenix Republic fell 8.7% from 321,600 to 293,640; the Miami Herald also fell 8.7% from 160,987 to 147,130; the Portland Oregonian dropped 7.7% from 247,833 to 228,909; the Charlotte Observer slipped 5.8% from 146,511 to 137,829; the Philadelphia Inquirer declined 5.5% from 325,289 to 306,831; Long Island Newsday slid 5% from 397,973 to 377,744; and the San Francisco Chronicle slipped 4.5% from 229,176 to 218,987

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