See the entire conversation

Consider this my gift to the world: Here are the daily/Sunday circulations of the largest newspapers in the United States — information that is surprisingly difficult to find online! These are all the papers with daily circulation of at least 75,000:
111 replies and sub-replies as of Mar 03 2020

In the old days, the Audit Bureau of Circ would put this list out in a convenient form every year, but they stopped a while back. A few complications: — Alliance for Audited Media (ABC's successor) includes a bunch of free total-market-coverage ad products, I took them out
— For papers owned by rich individuals, I just listed their names (in parentheses) rather than "Nash Holdings LLC" or "NantMedia" (the nom-de-possession of Jeff Bezos and Patrick Soon-Shiong, respectively) — I also cleaned up some placenames for papers technically in the suburbs
— I color-coded the chains that own at least 3 newspapers on this list: Tribune (7), Gannett (5), MNG (5), McClatchy (3), and Advance (3). I didn't color those with 2 (News Corp, Patrick Soon-Shiong, Hearst, Lee) because dude there are only so many colors.
(The fact that these 47 largest papers have, by my count, 25 different owners is evidence of how relatively diffuse newspaper ownership remains — and how much more room for consolidation/rollup there is.)
Alarming to me: There are no local newspapers left with a daily circulation over 500,000. There are only 2 (LAT, NY Post) over 300,000, and only 6 more (ChiTrib, Boston, Mpls, WaPo, Philly, Seattle) over 200,000. (I'm counting WaPo as local since it is local in print.)
Here's the same data for the year 2000: the @latimes over 1.1 million, 6 local papers over 500,000, and another 10 over 400,000. (Maybe more! That's just where the Top 20 ends.)…
And of course, one of those papers, the Rocky Mountain News, is no longer with us.
Couple stray notes: — I called it the New Orleans Times-Picayune even though they can't figure out what to call it — These are, as best as I can tell, print totals. Publishers do some sketchy things in defining "print" and "digital" subscriptions but I think I cleaned em out
Also: There aren't that many big family-controlled papers left! The last decade has seen a lot of rich *individuals* buying newspapers — but the classic family business model? The Sulzbergers, Blethens, Blocks, WEHCO, Belo, Advance, Cox — maybe you count Patrick Dolan or Hearst?
One last thing: Circulation numbers are *infinitely* fudgeable (especially in digital, but also in print), and different papers fudge them in different ways. So you shouldn't treat any of these numbers as ironclad reality. These are the numbers they report, ymmv.
(I've seen newspapers magically "double" their "circulation" by saying every print subscriber paying $10/month is actually paying $9.99 for print and $0.01 for digital and counting each person as two subscriptions.)
One thing, I misspoke a few tweets back: These numbers include digital. But those are small for nearly every local paper here and *very* inconsistently reported. Sometimes not at all (like WaPo).
For instance, these obviously do not include the millions of NYT and WSJ digital subscribers. But they do, for counter instance, include the 100K+ Boston Globe digital subscribers. Basically, this is what they report, I am not going to defend every paper’s math :)
If you want a good cry, here’s that same list from 2004; the numbers are ever so slightly higher…
Did the NY Post really pull ahead of the Daily News?
Yoooo the Baltimore Sun 😭
As an aside, I think most papers tried to count everything they're allowed to in digital but either didn't have the capability to track subs properly or, b/c it was a massive PITA, decided it wasn't worth the trouble to count units that really had no meaning for print.
Some have a Sunday and Wednesday version. Or the weekend version and I'd bet count that as weekday and sunday
no way. do you know if this will be reflected in the AAM data?
It totally depends! Every paper does it differently. It's bonkers.
this is hugely problematic, i've found lots of weird stuff in that data anyway
jesus. some folks at UNC have collected some circulation data (though, not at zip code level) using some statewide association per state?
I regret to tell you their data is very bad too
The overall directional point about every "news deserts" study is 100% correct — local news is being hollowed out across the country — but I have yet to find one that doesn't have meaningful methodological issues. This is mostly because no one agrees on what a "news desert" is.
Sorry to wreck your next six papers
I will say if you’re looking at a specific area and a specific newspaper, the AAM numbers do go down to zip code and are pretty reliable in and of themselves. It’s comparisons across areas that are hideously disfigured.
100% -- the numbers in the audit report are, um, always interesting....
What does “daily circulation” constitute?
Only the I Ching truly knows More seriously, different papers do it in wildly different ways. In this case, it’s what they report to AAM, however they get to that number.
ya has anyone written about what has happened to all those reporters?
We're all over the place! Old|T-P folks are doing journalism in Houston, Tampa Bay, Louisville, LA, Boston, Baltimore, NYC, Seattle, Atlanta, Hartford, Colorado Springs, Memphis and some still in New Orleans. Not all of us, though, are full-time. | | New Orleans News, Sports and Entertainment
Get the latest New Orleans, LA Local News, Sports News; US breaking News. View daily Louisiana weather updates, watch videos and photos, join the discussion in forums. Find more news
a very well organized spreadsheet!
For example, here is DMN for 2017 (it’s way down today from here at 121k paid)- just need to go to archives and find this statement from around first week of October 2019.
Here is Austin American Statesman from 2019
I will note that AAM lets them count their *best* weekday rather than their M-F as their "daily" number, so they used Wednesdays.
Hey, I’m just trying to help. I think your spreadsheet is too high by 30%.
Thanks for sharing this info. Would be interesting if you showed the population of each newspaper market along with circulation info. Just looking at some of the numbers I see a small penetration in big cities like NYC, LA, Chicago.
Though don’t forget to add up NYT+NYPost+NYDN+maybe Newsday (depending on how you define the metro), etc.
Agree. But isn't total population of NYC close to 9 million?
Yep (or like 17mil in metro area) — there’s circulation pain all over, alas
That's OK, a few of them are going to be the same pretty soon.
Chicago Tribune gutted more of its staff this week, including two top editors.
These numbers are still way too high, Josh. Look up their publisher statements they have to publish in October - the post office requires this. Also, your exclusion of free, total-coverage newspapers “ad products” categorization is Interesting to me for a variety of reasons.
These are their audited numbers, John — you are free to file a complaint if you think they're faking 'em! The papers I took out were all published by these same dailies. If I didn't take them out, the No. 1 newspaper in the country would be @washingtonpost's Marketplace inserts.
If you’re trying to figure out how they are doing financially, I would trust what they tell the Post Office and publish (as I’ve attached) over what they tell the Auditing company that they are paying to audit. That’s how it works. The news org pays them. They “audit” them.
That’s what I did when the Statesman was for sale. That’s what matched with their circ revenue numbers. I have the year over year history of you want to see it.
If you could do this for digital subscriptions, along with ARPU, and while sifting out ancillary products like crosswords, you would win at least one Nobel Prize.
Surprised that Buffalo News isn’t on here when smaller cities are...
Buffalo is the No. 50 metro area in population — smaller than Birmingham, Salt Lake City, Hartford, Louisville, Richmond, Memphis, OK City, and quite a few others that don't have a paper on the list
Those are just print subscriptions, right?
Total M-F paid print circulation: 45,785 :( 114K on Sunday, though
Sad news (no pun intended).
I remember when it was over 300k daily
Does anyone track average monthly web traffic/clicks for these outlets?
Comscore, Quantcast, etc
This is great work, truly Thank you. On the other hand, I didn’t realize there were 700,000 hotel rooms receiving USA Today’s ( @Gannett)weekend edition every week. 😉
Very interesting which big metros are missing from this list: San Antonio/Austin, Indianapolis, Nashville, Jacksonville
I don't know exactly what metric their using and how it compares to the ones you're using, but the company that owns the Anchorage Daily News claims it's print edition is read by 200k
"Read by" is always a fake stat based on a multiplier of actual print copies — it assumes the average copy is read by like 2.4 people
Copies actually distributed on weekdays: 32,971
Cincinnati Enquirer, 110,000 daily, 209,000 sunday.
78,777 Sunday and 44,954 avg M-F are what they report.
Well phooey. I stand corrected. But at least I'm doing my part.
It is much appreciated
While we're wishing, total # of staff over the years, or total editorial staff.
Sorry not into snuff stats
brb, about to find out if Reviewer 2 will be satisfied by a tweet
Sunday USA Today?
Yeah, it's another weird fudge — I think they're counting Gannett digital subs in a completely unorthodox way or something?
Or possibly because of bundling USAT with the regional metro Sunday editions. I'm assuming that plays into the large weekday circ number as well.
The LA Times daily number is probably wrong. According to data the paper gave me last year, the daily circ is about half that (incredibly)—and I doubt it’s risen that much since.
Oh, they're all wrong in some fun way
😄 It really is remarkable—if ultimately unsurprising—how hard it is to find accurate versions of those numbers these days.
my kingdom for an audited bureau of circulation well maybe not my kingdom ok fine i would give nothing for it. but it'd be nice if people didn't, you know, cheat
You know the punchline of the old circulation joke: Publisher: What’s 2+2? Circ director: What do you want it to be?
Tx for sharing! Surprised the Boston Globe ranks above the Wash Post for daily circulation.
I should note I'm pretty sure Boston is counting digital subs and WaPo is not (they choose not to report those).
Ah, ok, that explains it. Thanks
McClatchy is in bankruptcy btw, so I would expect to see some of its assets sold off as part of its restructuring process.
Very interesting. Thanks!
Pretty amazin' to note small @NYDailyNews Sunday circulation; the Sunday News had 4.7 MILLION Sunday readers back in 1947 when Real Dick Young was its Brooklyn Dodgers beat writer and @MLB columnist. Now it can't even beat Patterson family cousin @Newsday much less the @nypost.
That’s a sadly short list...
Fort Worth Star-Telegram?
Huh. I would have never guessed the that MPLS Star-Trib (I refuse Strib) would have had a greater circ than the WaPo.
Thanks for this. Good ol' @nypost: All these years and yer figures' barely changed!
Cincinnati Enquirer over 109,000
Not if you believe them
78,777 Sunday and 44,954 avg M-F are what they report.
Great work. Love to know your methodology. For many of these, these must be combined print and/or digital subs.
yeah, but not all: see NYT.
Some of us are already loving this. Thanks, @jbenton.
I wonder how many are long term subscribers and how many paid 99 cents for 3 months and then quit.
This is awesome, Joshua
Thanks! I will use and share with my students.
It’s not just the circulation number but also page counts are down tremendously
The WSJ does not have a Sunday edition
Does USA Today still leave a paper at every hotel room? That’s a lot of “subscribers”.
ty - interesting. Never would have put WaPo so far down the list. Interesting numbers.
this is cool... here is the raw dataset (tab separated, copy paste into Sheets or Excel should work)...
US Newspapers, Daily Circulation -
(no description)