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Summary:

According to the latest U.S.circulation numbers, more than 14% of U..S. newspaper circulation is digital — up 63% over last year. How did the top 25 papers fare?

The semi-annual numbers are out from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, marking the first time we have year-over-year comparables since the ABC changed its digital reporting guidelines. This used to be a fairly easy affair — you looked at the charts and you could see winners and losers at a glance. It’s not that easy now, however, since the agency’s efforts to measure total circulation in these complicated times altered the field. The ABC even includes a warning “against drawing too many direct comparisons of the data in today’s FAS-FAX report.”

The ABC rule changes make it easier for newspapers to break their circulation into recognizable, meaningful categories that can be audited, for instance, counting all digital circulation instead of limiting it to replica editions. They recognize that the same information can be delivered in different ways but still needs to be verified for marketers. (More background here and here.)

Some top-line numbers for the six-month period ending March 31, 2012:

  • Digital circulation now accounts for 14.2 percent of newspapers’ total circulation mix; up 63 percent from 8.66 percent in March 2011. That includes tablet or smartphone apps, replica editions, metered or restricted-access websites, and e-reader editions. That’s the same percent increase as the report covering the reporting period that ended in September.
  • Average daily circulation was up .68 percent; that covers 628 papers.
  • Average Sunday circulation was up 5 percent; that covers 532 papers.
I haven’t looked at them all yet but the New York Times is one of the clear winners, aided by its addition of digital subscriptions and the changes in the reporting, up 73 percent for daily to  1,586,757 and up 50 percent for Sunday to 2,003,247.  Its total average digital daily circulation for  807,026; 737,408 on Sunday.  More nitty-gritty later.
In the meantime, here are ABC’s charts for the top 25 U.S. dailies, Sunday papers and the ranking for those with digital editions who participated in Audience-Fax, the ABC service for measuring bundled circulation.

We’ll be talking with leaders in tech, media and investing about the changing publishing landscape at paidContent 2012: At The Crossroads, May 23, at The TimesCenter in New York. Join us.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user [Irina Fischer].

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