US Newspapers Gain Readers As Online Subscribers Boost WSJ

05 November 2003

Audit Bureau of Circulations OKs inclusion of paid-for online subscriptions as part of newspapers' overall circulation total.

This new concession by the ABC allowed the Dow Jones-owned Wall Street Journal to record a 16% circulation gain during the six months to September 30.

According to Dow Jones' senior vp for electronic publishing Gordon Crovitz: "[The change] highlights the opportunity for advertisers to make full use of the Journal franchise."

He went on to explain that the WSJ counts 686,000 paying subscribers worldwide, of which some 400,000 are solely online. Of that number, the Journal was allowed to include 290,412 on its circulation statement based on ABC rules governing what price level of subscriptions can count as paid circulation.

Significantly, circulation for the print edition alone during those six months was stagnant at 1,800,650, compared with 1,800,607 year-on-year.

Advertisers gave the move a cautious welcome but insisted they would require extra information differentiating print from online customers.

Matthew Spahn, director of media planning at Sears, Roebuck spoke for many clientsiders. "I think it is a positive thing to help advertisers understand the degree to which online circulation is growing," he said. "But it's also important to see if these are the same readers or different ones."

• Overall, average daily circulation for the 813 newspapers reporting to the ABC inched up 0.2% year-on-year, the Newspaper Association of America reported. This equates to a 0.7% increase on the same period a year ago.

The top ten dailies by daily average ABC sales were …

1. USA Today, 2,246,996 (+0.7%).
2. Wall Street Journal, 2,091,062 incl. online (+16.1%).
3. New York Times 1,118,565 (+0.5%).
4. Los Angeles Times, 955,211, (-1.1%).
5. Washington Post, 732,872 (-1.9%).
6. New York Daily News, 729,124 (+2.1%).
7. New York Post, 652,426 (+10.6%).
8. Chicago Tribune, 613,509 (unchanged).
9. Newsday (Long Island, New York), 580,069 (+0.2%).
10. Houston Chronicle, 553,018 (+0.2%).

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online and USA Today; additional content by WARC staff