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Newspaper Circulation: Wall Street Journal Leads, Overall Circulation Flat

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NEW YORK -- U.S. newspaper circulation was almost unchanged in the six months that ended in September as publications continued to make gains in digital editions, according to data from a media industry group.

Average daily circulation for print and digital editions combined fell 0.2 percent for the 613 newspapers included in the semiannual study by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Sunday circulation for the 528 newspapers in Tuesday's report increased 0.6 percent.

The Wall Street Journal kept its position as the No. 1 newspaper. Its average circulation grew 9.4 percent to 2.3 million, largely because more readers are paying to read content on its website and mobile devices. Digital circulation grew about 257,000 from a year ago, more than making up for a loss of nearly 60,000 in print.

USA Today was second at 1.7 million, down 3.9 percent. USA Today, which is owned by Gannett Co., remained the No. 1 print newspaper, with a higher circulation than the Journal after digital editions are excluded. Unlike the Journal, USA Today doesn't charge for website access. Its digital circulation is limited to other products, such as subscriptions on Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle.

The New York Times followed at 1.6 million, a 40 percent increase. More than half of the Times' circulation was for digital editions, including subscriptions for full access to the Times' website and mobile apps. The company attributed the gains to the growing popularity of its digital editions and to new rules giving publications more flexibility to count as multiple subscriptions the same person's usage on multiple outlets, such as the website and a Kindle.

The Times was the leading Sunday newspaper, with a circulation of 2.1 million. The Journal and USA Today do not have Sunday editions.

Circulation numbers affect advertising rates at newspapers, particularly for printed editions. Print advertising revenue has been declining in recent years as readers and advertisers shift to the Internet. The economic downturn accelerated the decline. Some newspapers have seen growth in digital ad revenue, but it hasn't been enough to offset the losses in print advertising.

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