Several big circulation gainers charge for online access, almost none of losers do

New figures released today by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show that nationally, daily circulation was up .68 percent for digital and print at the 618 papers reporting; Sunday circulation was up 5 percent at the 532 papers reporting. But some papers did better than that, and some did worse.

Three of the five newspapers that posted the largest percentage gains in Sunday circulation now charge for online access (The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times and Newsday), while four of the five with the largest drops do not, and one, the Los Angeles Times, only started to charge in March.

When looking at daily circulation, two of the five papers that gained the most charge (The New York Times and Newsday), while none of the five biggest losers do. See table:

News organization % circ gain/loss Digital pay plan
New York Times +73.05% Daily Yes
Orange County Register +53.48% Daily No
Newsday +33.21% Daily Yes
Denver Post +23.43% Daily No
Newark Star-Ledger +21.67% Daily No
Dallas Morning News +87.38% Sunday Yes
Houston Chronicle +55.95% Sunday No
New York Times +49.56% Sunday Yes
The San Antonio Express-News +38.67% Sunday No
Newsday +36.77% Sunday Yes
Washington Post -7.84% Daily No
Seattle Times -6.63% Daily No
Detroit Free Press -6.27% Daily No
Philadelphia Inquirer -5.36% Daily No
Chicago Tribune -5.17% Daily Planned
Washington Post -15.66% Sunday No
Cleveland Plain Dealer -.46% Sunday No
Seattle Times -.12% Sunday No
Chicago Tribune -.1% Sunday Planned
Los Angeles Times +.41% Sunday Yes, started March 5

Paywalls are on the horizon at more papers. Gannett, which owns the Detroit Free-Press, is planning to charge for online access to all its sites except USA Today. MediaPost reported in February that the Chicago Tribune is planning to charge for online access in some way; some other Tribune websites now charge.

NetNewsCheck noted that The Seattle Times recently said that its main and mobile website would remain free “for the time being.” MediaNews put up paywalls at some of its sites in August, but not at The Denver Post.

The Washington Post, however, has not demonstrated any interest in charging for online access, “not in the short term, and maybe never, if I read the tea leaves correctly,” wrote Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton in March. Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway holds Post stock, disagrees with that approach, saying in February, “You shouldn’t be giving away a product that you’re trying to sell.”

Julie Moos contributed to this report.

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