NEW YORK — Circulation fell sharply at most top U.S. newspapers in the latest reporting period, an industry group said Monday, with the exception of the two largest national dailies, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.
Those papers eked out gains of under 1 percent, while The New York Times, the No. 3 paper, fell 3.9 percent in the six months ending in March, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Newspaper circulation has been on a declining trend since the 1980s but the pace of declines has picked up in recent years as reader habits change and more people go online for news, information and entertainment.
National newspapers like USA Today and the Journal have tended to hold their ground better, as have smaller-market dailies where competition from other media like the Internet isn't usually as intense.
Gannett Co.'s USA Today remained the top-selling paper in the country with an average daily circulation of, 2,284,219, up 0.3 percent, while The Wall Street Journal rose 0.4 percent to 2,069,463. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought the Journal's parent company Dow Jones & Co. last December.
The New York Times Co.'s flagship paper remained the third-largest with circulation of 1,077,256, down 3.9 percent from the same period a year earlier. That company also owns The Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune.
Metropolitan dailies have suffered the worst declines, a trend that continued in the most recent reporting period, with the Dallas Morning News reporting a 10.6 percent drop to 368,313.
The Dallas paper's corporate owner A.H. Belo Corp., newly spun out of broadcasting company Belo Corp., said as part of its earnings statement Monday that the company was culling back on less valuable circulation such as copies distributed through third parties.
Other metro dailies also posted steep declines, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, down 8.5 percent to 326,907, and the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul, down 6.7 percent to 321,984.
Declines at other major papers were less severe, with the New York Daily News narrowly keeping the upper hand on its crosstown tabloid rival, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. The Daily News posted a 2.1 percent decline to 703,137, while the Post fell 3.1 percent to 702,488.
Both Murdoch and Daily News owner Mortimer Zuckerman are going after Tribune Co.'s Newsday on neighboring Long Island. Newsday, meanwhile, posted a 4.7 percent decline in circulation to 379,613.
The twice-yearly report from the Audit Bureau includes figures from most major U.S. newspapers but not the entire industry. At the nearly 550 papers that reported comparable figures for both periords, average daily circulation fell 3.6 percent in the most recent period.
Several smaller to mid-size papers posted gains, including a Spanish-language daily in New York called El Diario La Prensa, up 7.6 percent to 53,856, while The Times in Munster, Ind., owned by Lee Enterprises Inc., rose 3 percent to 86.195.
The Chicago Sun-Times, reporting for the first time since being censured in 2004 for circulation misstatements, posted circulation of 312,274, but no prior-year numbers were available for comparison.