May 1 (Bloomberg) -- The New York Times led weekday circulation gains among major U.S. newspapers, jumping 73 percent in the six-month period ended in March, fueled by the growth of the online subscription business it started last year.
The total industry saw a 0.7 percent increase in daily circulation over the same period, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, with Sunday circulation among reporting newspapers climbing 5 percent. The Wall Street Journal, owned by New York-based News Corp., remained the No. 1 weekday publication with circulation of 2.12 million, little changed from a year ago. USA Today ranked second.
The New York Times Co.’s flagship paper, third in weekday circulation, spurred thousands of users to sign up for online subscriptions last year when it began charging for more of its content. Weekday print circulation, meanwhile, dropped 4.5 percent to 779,731, while Sunday print copies declined 1.1 percent to 1.27 million.
The company has said it had 454,000 paying digital subscribers to digital editions of both the New York Times and International Herald Tribune newspapers as of the end of March 18, a year after it began charging readers to access the site.
The jump in circulation is partly explained by new reporting rules from the Audit Bureau. A paying subscriber who accesses the Times newspaper on different digital devices -- everything from a smartphone to a tablet to a desktop computer -- could be counted three times in a single day.
New York Times shares fell less than 1 percent to $6.26 at the close in New York. The stock has declined 19 percent this year.
Circulation at USA Today, owned by McLean, Virginia-based Gannett Co., declined 0.6 percent to 1.82 million.
Internet use accounts for 14 percent of newspapers’ total circulation on average, up from 8.7 percent in the same period last year, according to the Audit Bureau.
“Due to the many ways that newspapers now distribute and market their content -- metered paywalls, mobile apps, bundled subscriptions, branded editions -- ABC cautions against drawing too many direct comparisons of the data,” the group said in a statement.
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