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Sun-Times circulation grows, surpasses Tribune as 9th largest

4-27-07 New Chicago Sun-Times signage is installed outside of the 350 n Orleans building by International Marble. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Circulation for the newspapers in the Chicago Sun-Times corporate family rose in the past year and exceeded the total for the Chicago Tribune, according to a report issued Tuesday.

The report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that the Sun-Times and its affiliated suburban papers had a daily circulation of 422,335 as of March 31, up 0.7 percent from a year ago.

The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, reported a decline of 5.17 percent over the same period, giving it a circulation of 414,590.

The report ranked the Sun-Times and its branded editions as the ninth largest newspaper in the country, just ahead of the Tribune. The Sun-Times editions include six suburban dailies, a three-times-a-week paper and the Pioneer Press chain of weeklies.

All are owned by Wrapports LLC, an investment group that acquired the papers in December. Timothy Knight, chief executive officer of Wrapports, said he feels “very positive” about the results. “It’s our branded edition strategy combined with our suite of digital products,” he said. “It’s a terrific platform for us to build upon.”

The numbers reflect changes in paid copies and what the audit bureau calls “verified” circulation, which includes bulk distribution to third parties and schools.

The Sun-Times’ improvement was in line with the average circulation increase of 0.68 percent that the audit bureau reported for 618 newspapers in the country. The growth stemmed from increases in digital circulation.

On Sundays, average circulation for the Sun-Times papers rose 3.18 percent as of March 31 to 434,861. At the Chicago Tribune, average Sunday circulation fell 0.1 percent to 779,440.

As a stand-alone product, the Sun-Times’ average circulation for Monday through Friday rose 7.32 percent from a year ago to 269,489. On Sundays, its circulation was up 7.85 percent to 270,598.

The audit bureau said that on average, 532 newspapers reported an increase of 5 percent in Sunday circulation.

The Wall Street Journal remains the No. 1 U.S. newspaper with average weekday circulation of 2.1 million, about the same as a year earlier.

USA Today was No. 2 with 1.8 million, down less than 1 percent. The New York Times was in third place with 1.6 million, up 73.1 percent.

The figures released cover the six months that ended on March 31.

Industrywide, circulation for the 532 newspapers that report Sunday data grew 5 percent. Digital circulation, which includes tablet or smart phone apps, e-readers and websites, accounted for 14.2 percent of newspapers total circulation. That’s up from 8.6 percent a year earlier.

Contributing: AP