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New York Times Tops USA Today to Become No. 2 U.S. Paper

The New York Times posted an 18 percent gain in daily circulation, vaulting it past USA Today as the second-largest U.S. newspaper, according to figures released today by the Alliance for Audited Media.

The Times’ average daily circulation rose to 1.87 million in the six-month period ending March 31, the alliance said in a statement. News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal remained the No. 1 paper in the U.S., with its circulation climbing 12 percent to 2.38 million. The Gannett Co.-owned USA Today dropped to third after daily readership slipped 7.9 percent to 1.67 million.

Daily readership of U.S. newspapers altogether declined 0.7 percent in the six-month period from a year earlier while Sunday editions, which draw the most advertising dollars, were down 1.4 percent, according to the AAM. Even so, more people are reading news online, which accounts for 19 percent of total circulation, compared with 14 percent last year.

The New York Times has seen a surge in online subscribers since the company instituted a so-called paywall in 2011, prompting readers to pay for online access. The AAM’s daily circulation figures include people who read the paper on a range of devices, including Inc.’s Kindle.

“These gains can largely be attributed to the continuing popularity of the Times’ digital subscription packages,” New York Times Co. said in a separate statement.

Double Counting

The company also is being helped by relatively new reporting rules at the AAM that let publishers count subscribers multiple times if they read a paper on different devices. For instance, a person who accesses the Times on a personal computer, a smartphone and a tablet in a single day would be counted as three readers. While the Times’ digital readership stands at 1.13 million, the publisher only had 676,000 paying online subscribers as of the end of March.

Times Co. shares fell 0.1 percent to $8.86 at the New York close. They have climbed 3.9 percent this year, compared with a 12 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

The company announced plans last week to create more digital products and services, aiming to make up for tumbling advertising sales. The new offerings, such as a lower-priced online packages and specialized subscriptions that focus on areas such as politics and technology, will be rolled out in late 2013 or early 2014.

The publisher is targeting potential customers “numbering in the many hundreds of thousands,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson said in an interview at the time.

The Times’ current pricing plans range from $15 to $35 a month, depending on how many devices the reader plans to use.

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