Where can I find historic newspaper circulation data?
September 6, 2007 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Where do I find data about 1940s newspaper circulation? I want to see what was going on with newspaper readership in the 1940s, before, during and after WWII. I think that newspaper readership went up during the war and am trying to find data to prove it! I'm looking for 1940s circulation statistics for some of the big newspapers (NY times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune & Christian Science Monitor). I am finding very little reliable information. Is there a reference librarian in the house who could point me towards a reference book or source?
posted by pluckysparrow to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

The Audit Bureau of Circulations verifies paid circulation of newspapers and magazines, and has been doing so since 1914. They must have an archive of historical circulation information, but it is not readily available on their site. Most of their information has been proprietary and shared mainly between member publishers and advertisers.

Assuming you have a scholarly purpose, I would suggest phoning one of the people on their contact page and seeing how you can get at the info you need.
posted by beagle at 9:31 AM on September 7, 2007

I've seen magazines publish their circulation figures in their masthead, so I would pull the magazines in question (print or microfilm) and check them directly. Circulation might just be given once per year, so you might have to check a full year until you find a number, but then you would know which issue to check each year for year-over-year changes.
posted by NortonDC at 11:09 AM on September 7, 2007

By the way, you'd need to take into account market size -- US newspaper circulation overal grew steadily during most of the 20th century, but started to fall in the 1950s in terms of copies sold per 100 households. You might well find (and I seem to remember coming across this) that circulation per 100 households peaked during the war at over 100 copies (with many households taking 2 papers). (Although it says here, it was in the 30s at 1.3 papers per household.) In individual markets this is harder to track because the circulation areas of the papers changed in addition to the household base.
posted by beagle at 8:04 PM on September 7, 2007

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