TOTAL CIRCULATION OF U.S. NEWSPAPERS BY YEAR, 1991-2008
Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States
Link to October 25 New York Times "Media Decoder" blogpost.
Excerpt: Figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that overall weekday circulation at 635 newspapers declined 5 percent from circulation in the same six months last year. The decline last year was at more than twice that rate.
Sunday circulation fell at a slightly slower pace of 4.5 percent, the latest figures showed.
The newspaper reporting the highest weekday circulation was The Wall Street Journal at just over 2 million, though that number includes 450,000 electronic subscriptions. The number of individually paid printed copies the journal distributes each weekday averaged 1.4 million.
Additional historical circulation figures/U.S. population
1990: 62,300,000 / 248,710,000
1985: 62,800,000 / 237,924,000
1980: 62,200,000 / 226,456,000
1975: 60,700,000 /
1970: 62,100,000 / 203,302,000
Newspaper circulation was already flat well before the Internet entered our lives. (Hmm, all of a sudden I want to graph the audience numbers for traditional nightly TV news broadcasts. My parents favored Walter Cronkite.)
Most instructive statistic: The number of evening newspapers declined from 36,200,000 in 1970 to 7,700,000 in 2004.