updated 10/25/2010 10:56:01 AM ET 2010-10-25T14:56:01

Circulation is still dropping at U.S. newspapers.

Figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show average daily circulation fell 5 percent in the six months that ended Sept. 30, compared with the same period a year earlier.

The latest decline was not as steep as the 8.7 percent drop seen in the previous reporting period, which ran from October 2009 through March of this year.

Sunday circulation fell 4.5 percent in the April-September period, also a smaller decline than the 6.5 percent drop in the six months before that.

Several trends factor in the decline. The growing popularity of free news on the Web is making newspaper subscriptions unnecessary for many readers. And publishers have been looking to offset losses in advertising revenue by raising newsstand and subscription prices. Some newspapers have reduced delivery to less profitable areas, figuring the cost of trucking newspapers far afield doesn't pay off in extra advertising dollars.

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Of the 25 biggest newspapers by circulation, only The Wall Street Journal, owned by News Corp., and The Dallas Morning News, owned by A.H. Belo Corp., posted weekday gains. The Journal posted growth of 1.8 percent, with average daily circulation of 2,061,142. The Morning News grew 0.25 percent to 264,459.

Circulation figures include paid online subscriptions. The Journal benefits from that because it charges for its main website, while most other daily newspapers leave their sites free and only charge for digital replicas of the print edition, a market that remains small.

Among those largest newspapers, the biggest decline came at Newsday, the Long Island, New York, daily newspaper owned by subscription TV provider Cablevision Systems Corp. Its circulation fell nearly 12 percent to 314,848.

The Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle, both owned by Hearst Corp., also lost more than 10 percent of their circulation.

John F. Sturm, president of the Newspaper Association of America, said the continued circulation declines came in as expected, and he pointed out that newspapers now reach many thousands more readers on the Web and cell phones.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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