Circulation is still dropping at U.S. newspapers. Figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show average daily circulation...

NEW YORK — 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 of the previous reporting period, which ran from last October through March of this year.

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

Circulation declines at The Seattle Times reflected national numbers. Daily paid circulation was 251,697, down 4.5 percent from 263,588 a year earlier.

Sunday circulation stood at 341,265 vs. 359,672, a decline of 5.1 percent.

The Times now ranks No. 18 among the nation’s largest newspapers by daily circulation, up from No. 20 a year ago, and is the third largest on the West Coast, after the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News.

Nationally, 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.

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, 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 small market.

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

The Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle, both owned by Hearst, 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. He pointed out that newspapers now reach many thousands more readers on the Web and via cellphones.