Circulation for The Inquirer's Sunday editions rose by 5.9 percent but fell for the weekday Inquirer by 5.4 percent, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
The ABC report covers the six-month period ending March 31, prior to the April 2 purchase of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com by a group of local investors.
Since 2010, figures reported to the ABC reflect the combined Inquirer/Daily News circulation. (The Daily News was converted into an edition of The Inquirer.) The combined daily figures were 325,291 for the six months ended March 31 and 343,709 for the previous year.
Looked at separately, Monday-through-Friday circulation of The Inquirer fell by 5,249 copies, or 2 percent, to 261,333 for the most recent six months, from 266,582 for the comparable period in 2011. The Daily News' circulation was 63,958 for the six-month period, down 17.1 percent, or 13,170 copies, from 77,128 for the 2011 period.
Robert Hall, chief operating officer of parent company Philadelphia Media Network Inc., said a price increase for the Daily News last year was largely responsible for its circulation decrease.
ABC, an independent auditor of the publishing industry's circulation data, reported circulation for 618 newspapers rose by 0.68 percent daily, while 532 newspapers recorded a collective 5 percent increase in Sunday circulation.
Media analyst Ken Doctor said he considered the strong showing for many Sunday newspapers to be significant. The publishers he's talked with attribute Sunday popularity to coupons and other advertising offers in those papers in a sluggish economy, rather than a bundling of print and digital products.
But digital media's increasing importance was clear in the ABC report released Tuesday, its first to include year-over-year comparisons of "total average circulation," a measurement of a newspaper's paid and verified circulation across all its print and digital properties.
ABC said digital editions accounted for 14.2 percent of overall U.S. circulation in the most recent period, up from 8.7 percent in March 2011. For The Inquirer, total digital circulation amounted to 55,921, or 17 percent of total average daily circulation as of March 31.
Sunday Inquirer circulation increased to 517,310 copies from 488,286 for the six-month period ended March 31, 2011. Those figures include copies of SportsWeek, the publication launched Oct. 1 that replaced the Saturday Daily News. ABC said SportsWeek accounted for 31,802 copies in the six months ended March 31.
Excluding SportsWeek, total print and digital circulation of the Sunday Inquirer fell by 2,779 copies, or 0.6 percent, ABC reported.
"We are very optimistic regarding the positive impact that supplemental publications, such as SportsWeek, are having with readers of the Sunday Inquirer," Hall said. "The continued increase of digital subscriptions, reflected in our overall circulation, is important to note in representing how customers are embracing our various products for receiving their news."
The Inquirer was one of 10 newspapers among the nation's 25 largest to post a decline in daily circulation. The Washington Post suffered the biggest drop, 7.8 percent, with average circulation falling to 507,615 from 550,821.
In contrast, the New York Times' total average daily circulation spiked 73 percent to 1.59 millionfor the six months ended March 31 compared with last year. Of that, the Times' digital circulation amounted to 807,026.
Philly.com had 7.24 million unique visitors in March 2012, up from 6.13 million the previous year, according to The Inquirer publisher's statement for March 2011 filed with ABC.
Contact Mike Armstrong at 215-854-2980 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or @PhillyInc on Twitter.