Newspapers are not for reading
There is one factor which may cast the circulation figures of the free newspapers in doubt.
One thing I notice when commuting to work these days is that a lot of old people line up to collect the free newspapers. In all likelihood, they take the newspapers not to read them. Many of them who line up for the English papers do not look like those who might have the knowledge to read English. Also, I once heard the one who handed out the papers tell off an old woman who had re-joined the line to take another copy so many times that she remembered the face. There are other old people who wait near the turnstiles of the subway station and ask the commuters for the newspapers they have finished reading. Obviously, these old people collect the newspapers and then sell them to the businesses for recycling.
These days you also see a lot of old people sitting for hours in fast food shops without any purchase. One could argue that these actions are not very fair as they infringe other people's rights. But the fact that it is not a very dignified way to earn very little money and to live and still quite a lot of old people do it shows that their life must be rather difficult. This is not a city that allows old people, especially the poor ones, live in dignity.