U.S. newspaper circulation fell sharply in the six months leading through March, with the exception of the two largest national dailies, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, as more readers turn to online sites to read the latest news.

The New York Times, the No. 3 paper, and Los Angeles Times reported declines of 3.9 percent and 5.1 percent, while paid weekday circulation among 530 newspapers dropped 3.6 percent, the Audit Bureau of Circulations said.

USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, the two biggest U.S. newspapers, were the only publications in the top 25 which did not report a decline in circulation.

Newspaper circulation has been on the decline for more than 20 years and reader habits have changed and more people prefer the internet as their source of news, information and entertainment.

Circulation at Gannett Co.'s USA Today, the largest newspaper, gained 0.3 percent to 2.28 million. News Corp.'s Wall Street Journal, the second-largest, increased its print and online readers 0.4 percent to 2.07 million.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought the Journal's parent company Dow Jones & Co. last December. The Journal is increasing its political and international coverage to compete with New York Times.

The New York Times Co. paper remained the third-largest with circulation of 1.08 million, down 3.9 percent from the same period a year earlier. The company also owns The Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune.

Between New York's tabloids, the Daily News, owned by Boston Properties Inc. Chairman Mortimer Zuckerman, narrowly led Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. The Daily News posted a 2.1 percent decline to 703,137, while the Post fell 3.1 percent to 702,488.

Both Murdoch and Daily News owner Mortimer Zuckerman are bidding for Tribune Co.'s Newsday on neighboring Long Island. Newsday, meanwhile, posted a 4.7 percent decline in circulation to 379,613.

List of average paid weekday circulation for the 25 largest U.S. newspapers for the six months ended in March, with percentage change from a year earlier:

1. USA Today, 2,284,219, up 0.3 percent

2. Wall Street Journal, 2,069,463, up 0.4 percent

3. New York Times, 1,077,256, down 3.9 percent

4. Los Angeles Times, 773,884, down 5.1 percent

5. New York Daily News, 703,137, down 2.1 percent

6. New York Post, 702,488, down 3.1 percent

7. Washington Post, 673,180, down 3.6 percent

8. Chicago Tribune, 541,663, down 4.4 percent

9. Houston Chronicle, 494,131, down 1.8 percent

10. Arizona Republic, 413,332, down 4.7 percent

11. Newsday, Long Island, 379,613, down 4.7 percent

12. San Francisco Chronicle, 370,345, down 4.2 percent

13. Dallas Morning News, 368,313, down 10.6 percent

14. Boston Globe, 350,605, down 8.3 percent

15. Newark Star-Ledger, 345,130, down 7.4 percent

16. Philadelphia Inquirer, 334,150, down 5.1 percent

17. Cleveland Plain Dealer, 330,280, down 4.2 percent

18. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 326,907, down 8.5 percent

19. Minneapolis Star Tribune, 321,984, down 6.7 percent

20. St. Petersburg Times, Florida, 316,007, down 2.1 percent

21. Chicago Sun Times, 312,274, n.a.

22. Detroit Free Press, 308,944, down 6.5 percent

23. Portland Oregonian, 304,399, down 4.8 percent

24. San Diego Union-Tribune, 288,669, down 2.6 percent

25. Sacramento Bee, 268,755, down 3.7 percent

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations