Circulation drops for N.C. newspapers

The Charlotte ObserverApril 27, 2010 

Newspaper circulation in the Carolinas continued to trend downward in the last year.

Figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed double-digit percentage declines at some major dailies in the state.

The News & Observer saw its Sunday circulation drop 8 percent to 188,030 and Monday-Friday circulation dropped 12 percent to 137,804.

Also troubling to some publishers were drops in the net combined audience, a measure of unduplicated readers using print editions or newspaper websites. As readers shifted to online delivery of news in ever greater numbers this decade, the figure showed growth and demonstrated a greater reach.

For the first time since the metric was introduced in 2007, some Carolina newspapers showed declines. Both The News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer were off 3 percent from year-ago levels, when the UNC Tar Heels were in a run for the NCAA championship. Despite circulation woes, newspapers operate the No. 1 local websites in most markets, though the surge in local online advertising has not offset declines in print ads.

Jim Puryear, vice president of circulation for The N&O, attributed the decline to raising the cost of the paper. It particularly hurt single-copy sales, he said. He said the paper will be doing more promotions this year and is encouraged by the growth of its e-edition.

Nationally, average weekday circulation was off 9 percent and Sunday circulation was down 7 percent year-to-year in the six months ending March 31.

Declines were felt in the region at most community newspapers, which had held up better than their metro counterparts through much of the recession. Daily circulation was down 2 percent at the Sanford Herald to 8,162; down 8 percent at the Fayetteville Observer to 55,412; down 4 percent at the Durham Herald-Sun to 25,080.

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