Average daily circulation at the U.S.'s largest newspapers improved slightly during the six months ended in March from a year earlier, a shift for an industry that has been beset by weak advertising and competition from a swath of digital technologies, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Average weekday circulation for 618 U.S. dailies increased 0.7%, based on a cumulative average for the period ended March 31 from a year earlier. Sunday circulation for 532 Sunday papers was up 5% in the latest period.
The figures were released Tuesday by the publishing industry group. The latest report is the third to reflect new rules created by a task force of newspaper publishers and advertisers that seek to address circulation issues related to digital editions. The new rules also aim to show how many copies are purchased by individuals, rather than distributed to third parties.
During the latest period, digital editions accounted for 14.2% of overall U.S. circulation, up from 8.66% in the year-earlier period.
The Wall Street Journal maintained its position as the country's largest newspaper by average weekday circulation, with others in the top three spots also keeping their ranks.
The Wall Street Journal had average weekday circulation of 2.1 million as of March 31, up 0.02% from a year earlier. The Journal moved past Gannett Co.'s (GCI) flagship USA Today as the largest U.S. newspaper in 2009.
USA Today kept its No. 2 spot with 1.8 million readers, down 0.64% from a year earlier. USA Today had been the biggest paper in the U.S. for a decade. The slump in business travel meant fewer copies of USA Today were sold to hotels, one of the paper's historic strengths.
The New York Times (NYT) retained the No. 3 rank at 1.6 million weekday readers, an improvement of 73%, continued to have the highest Sunday circulation, at 2 million, up 50%.
News Corp. (NWSA, NWS.AU) owns Dow Jones Newswires, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. The Post took the No. 7 slot, with weekday circulation of 555,327, an improvement of 6.2%.
-By Tess Stynes, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2481; Tess.Stynes@dowjones.com