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Newspaper Sales Fall, Web Traffic Increases

Doug Caverly
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-09

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Newspapers' websites are receiving more hits than ever, but paper subscriptions are falling throughout the industry. Nielson and NetRatings report that traffic to newspaper sites increased roughly 8% from 2005 to 2006, with 56 million Internet users dropping by.

But in paper sales, weekday subscriptions have fallen 2.5%, and Sunday circulations have decreased even more, by 3.1%. This means that 45.4 million and 48.5 million readers, respectively, still buy the physical copies, according to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).

Younger people are driving this development, as they increasingly prefer to reference cable TV and the Web for their news. This trend began in the 1980s, and as industry analyst John Morton says, "It isn't likely to change."

Paper sales did not uniformly decrease, though. A few of the major newspapers eked out minor gains, with USA TODAY's sales increasing by 0.1%, The New York Times managing a 0.5% growth, and the Chicago Tribune increasing circulation by 0.9%.

Other benchmark newspapers showed drastic declines. The Los Angeles Times lost 9.1%, The Boston Herald dropped by 9.1%, and The San Francisco Chronicle fell off a small cliff, with sales decreasing by 15.6%.

Despite these depressing numbers, investors seem optimistic. In the same period, McLatchy's stock price increased by 3.2%, the New York Times Co. rose by 4.6%, and Tribune Co. shares showed an increase of 6.5%. It remains unknown how much of these increases might be due to the increasing Web traffic.

The NAA advised watch groups to consider the Internet numbers in addition to paper circulation, which is usually taken as the key benchmark of newspapers' performance. It will be the NAA's mission in the future to convince advertisers that a strong Web showing can be just as important.

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About the Author:
Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

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