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Newspaper Circulation Figures Shrink Again

The circulation declines of American newspapers continued over the spring and summer, as sales across the industry fell almost 3 percent compared with the year before, according to figures released Monday.

The drop, reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, reflects the growing shift of readers to the Internet, where newspaper readership has climbed, and also a strategy by many major papers to shed unprofitable or marginally profitable print circulation.

Among the nation’s largest newspapers, only a handful held their own or registered slight increases in overall paid circulation for the period from April 1 to Sept. 30: USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Houston Chronicle, and The St. Petersburg Times. Most papers showed significant declines, both weekday and Sunday.

For the first time, the audit bureau released, along with the traditional circulation figures, numbers produced by Scarborough Reports that reflected the total number of readers, both in print and online, for more than 200 newspapers in their home markets. For many of those papers, this marks the first time that such an independent analysis has been done, providing a benchmark for future reports.

Industry executives said they hoped the new numbers would put a more positive cast on newspapers’ prospects than the routinely gloomy paid circulation reports have done.

MSNBC Finds Knocking Bush Helps Ratings

Riding a ratings wave from “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” a program that takes strong issue with the Bush administration, MSNBC is increasingly seeking to showcase its night-time lineup as a welcome haven for viewers of a similar mind.

Lest there be any doubt that the cable channel believes there is ratings gold in shows that bash the administration with the same vigor with which Fox News’ hosts often champion it, two NBC executives acknowledged Monday that they were talking to Rosie O’Donnell about a prime-time show on MSNBC. During the nine months she spent on “The View” before departing abruptly last spring, O’Donnell raised viewership notably. She did so while lamenting the unabated casualties of the Iraq war and advocating the right to gay marriage, among other positions.

Under one option, O’Donnell would take the 9 p.m. slot each weeknight on MSNBC, pitting her against “Larry King Live” on CNN and “Hannity & Colmes” on Fox News.