Circulation: Worse than you think
Circulation has dropped by 23.6% over the last 24 years to 48.4 million today, according to the most recent figures provided by the Audit Bureau of Circulations and the Newspaper Association of America. In the same period, average Sunday circulation has fallen 15.3% to a bit under 48.8 million.
(After analyzing here the circulation declines at individual papers, Mark Potts notes that several would be happy if their subscriber rolls had dropped by "only 23.6%" in recent years.)
As you can see from the chart below, the industry has been unable to produce a gain in daily circulation since 1987. Sunday sales have not shown any positive momentum since 1993.
While newspaper circulation has weakened since the 1980s, the decay has accelerated sharply since 2003. Sunday circulation, which had been relatively more resilient than daily sales, now is falling more precipitously than daily sales.
Today’s daily circulation is back to where it was in 1945 and the Sunday sale is where it was in 1965.
Though circulation is at pre-Baby Boom levels, the U.S. population has more than doubled since the mid-1940s. If you divide circulation by population, you will find that fewer than 18 out of 100 Americans today buy a daily or Sunday newspaper. Back in 1945, 36% of the population bought a daily paper and 31% took a Sunday edition.