According to a story in the UK's Press Gazette based on 2020 data from the Alliance for Audited Media, circulation for major newspapers in the U.S. fell 20% during the height of the pandemic in 2020.
The data – covering January through September 2020 for the ten newspapers with the highest weekly circulations in the U.S., and comparing Q1 sales with the height of COVID in Q2 and Q3 – showed double-digit declines for half of the ten, including a whopping 60% plunge for Gannett's USA Today, from 486,579 copies to 194,369. Second was The Wall Street Journal, down 19%. According to the Press Gazette, both newspapers were “particularly badly hit by falling sales to hotels as travel dried up during the pandemic.”
The other three papers seeing pandemic-driven circulation declines: The New York Post suffered a 15% loss, The New York Times was off 12% and The Los Angeles Times was down 10%. Single-digit declines were posted by The Washington Post (-9%), Long Island's Newsday (-4%), the Chicago Tribune (-3%) and Minneapolis-St.Paul's The Star Tribune (-2%).
Only one of these ten newspapers, the Tampa Bay Times, actually made a circulation gain, up 4%, due to switching from a daily to twice-weekly, on Wednesdays and Sundays.