The New York Times continues to gain readers after it announced that the number of people accessing a digital or physical copy has increased to 1.86 million between Monday to Friday and 2.32 million every Sunday.

The figures, which are accurate for the six-month period leading up to March 31, represent an 18 percent increase over Monday to Friday and 16 percent rise on weekend reading compared to the same period last year.

The circulation growth, published today by the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), shows significant gains in the number of people looking at The New York Times website.

Digital circulation was up to 1.09 million between Monday to Friday, an impressive 41 percent increase over the same time last year. For Sunday that figure drops to 1,06 million, but even still represents a 45 percent climb compared to 2012.

The AAM says these figures include all paid and verified digital subscriptions, as well as paid subscriptions to replica editions and e-readers such as the e-ink Kindle and Nook devices.

What it doesn’t clarify, however, is how many of these readers are accessing the site using the 10 free articles given to everyone each month on NYTimes.com. The New York Times will be keen to promote these figures as evidence that its subscriber base is increasing, but without this breakdown we can’t know for sure.

The figures do show that the total number of people interested and engaged with The New York Times is on the rise. That can only be seen as a positive, given that it improves the newspaper’s advertising opportunities and international awareness.

Some of that can be attributed to a couple of deals which The New York Times is experimenting with, including a partnership with Starbucks that allows coffee lovers to read up to 15 articles for free each day.

The AAM breakdown for print circulation, meanwhile, gives a much more accurate picture as to how many people are prepared to pay for the publication’s reportage. Physical copies between Monday and Friday has dropped by 6.2 percent to 731,395 over the last six months, while Sunday circulation slid to 1.25 million – a 0.9 percent decrease.

The gains in online readership are an optimistic sign for the journalistic institution, but as sales of physical newspapers continue to drop, the need to find a viable business model online is only heightened.

Image Credit: John Moore/Getty Images