THANKS NEW YORK! screamed the New York Post one late-October morning, alongside a color picture of a broadly grinning Statue of Liberty. The occasion? A “circulation stunner.” The previous day, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which monitors sales figures for U.S. newspapers and magazines, announced that the Post had reached an average weekday circulation of 704,011. The Daily News’ number was 693,382. The Post, perhaps for the first time ever and certainly for the first time in recent history, had beaten the News.
That same morning, a red band across the top of the News’ cover proclaimed THE #1 NEWSPAPER IN THE CITY! How’s that? Well, the Post may have larger total circ, but its lead is smaller than the number of papers it sells out of town. LIFE WITH THE TABS: SALES ARE UP! EACH SAYS IT’S AHEAD! was the headline in the Times the next day. The latest skirmish in America’s last tabloid war was on.
It was one of many volleys this year. At the end of 2005, the Post stole away the longtime top business exec at the News—who kicked off 2006 working to steal his old paper’s ad accounts and in September purchased 28 Brooklyn and Queens weeklies, with the goal of stealing his old paper’s readers, too. In March the News’ investigative ace Rick Pienciak reported that “tens of thousands of New York Posts were dumped at two recycling centers yesterday morning, just hours after being printed, in a bizarre circulation ploy that has already come to the attention of newspaper circulation authorities.” April brought news of “Page Six” reporter Jared Paul Stern’s alleged extortion of supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle—which, naturally, made page one of the News. Over the summer, Bravo ran Tabloid Wars, a documentary series about the News; the Post’s TV guide listed the broadcasts as “Paid Programming” and “Special Olympics.”
And so it goes. For readers, the rivalry means a daily double helping of grisly crime stories, celebrity gotcha photos, silly sweepstakes games—and the occasional brilliant headline. Did a paper in a one-tab town come up with SURRENDER MONKEYS? Only in New York, kids. Only in New York.