Readers Are Still Abandoning the “Washington Post”

Though circulation decline has slowed for papers across the board, the “Post” continues to slide.

The bleeding of readers from major daily newspapers has been staunched, and many papers
are adding readers, but the
Washington Post’s downward slide continues unabated.

The findings of the latest circulation figures released Tuesday by the Audit Bureau
of Circulations show that overall newspapers lost 0.2 percent in circulation for the
six months ending on September 30, compared with the same period in 2011. The past
decade has seen readers fleeing newspapers in double-digit percentages, so slowing
that decline to near zero is cause for some relief.

But the pain at the
Washington Post continues.

The
Post’s daily circulation dropped below 500,000 for the first time in decades. Last September
the number was 507,465. The average circulation for print and digital at the end of
September 2012 came in at 462,228, according to the ABC.

The numbers were worse on Sunday. For the six months ending in September 2011 the

Post clocked 846,019 readers, but the number dropped to 674,751 in the current accounting.
That amounts to a drop of 20 percent.

By comparison, the
New York Times reported an increase of 40 percent in daily circulation, which reached 1,613,865
million readers. The Sunday Times topped 2 million in circulation for an increase
of 28 percent.

The numbers are misleading and revealing at the same time. The
Post has decided to keep its digital news free without asking readers to pay or erecting
a pay wall. The
New York Times has been offering digital subscription packages that readers have been snapping up,
resulting in increasing circulation and revenues.

Among the top ten newspapers, only
USA Today (-3.9 percent) and the
New York Daily News (-11.5 percent) joined the
Post in losing circulation. The
Wall Street Journal,
Los Angeles Times,
Chicago Sun-Times, and
Denver Post all recorded increases.

The
Post’s continued loss of circulation and revenues calls into question Post Company chairman

Don Graham’s firm opposition to making readers pay for digital copy.

“Circumstance has made it so we’re the one great news company that’s free at this
point,” Graham told Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in July.

Circumstances change. If the
Post keeps losing readers and revenue, Graham might have to reconsider.

More from News & Politics