UPDATE Saturday AM with more information, below:

Billionaire real-estate man Mortimer B. Zuckerman told the already demoralized, thinned-out staff of the New York Daily News on Thursday that the wheezing tabloid, currently bleeding as much as $20 million a year, is up for sale. The response inside the paper’s West Side headquarters, according to reports, was a collective yawn of resignation.

280x425In a memo to the staff of the traditionally liberal paper, which has survived continued downsizing in a decades-long war with Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing New York Post, Zuckerman wrote: “I want to share with you a new development regarding the company. A few weeks ago, we were approached about our potential interest in selling the Daily News. Although there were no immediate plans to consider a sale, we thought it would be prudent to explore the possibility and talk to potential buyers and/or investors. To help us with the process, I have retained Lazard, a leading financial advisory firm.

“I have not come to this decision easily. But I believe the immense hard work in turning the business around in an extremely challenging period for the industry, has put the Daily News in as strong a position than it has ever been, particularly online.

“I appreciate that this news is difficult for you to digest. But I want to reassure you that my aim throughout this process will be to do the right thing for the business to ensure the Daily News and its brilliant staff have the best opportunity to achieve all our future ambitions.

Talks with Murdoch’s News Corp. about consolidating some of the Post‘s and Daily News‘ operations to save money have consistently failed. In its latest cost-trimming venture, the News, which once boasted a daily readership of  2 million and deep coverage of the entire metropolitan region, recently shuttered its bureaus outside Manhattan. The most recent circulation figures are 427,452 on weekdays and 558,057 on Sundays for the six months ending last September, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. The Post—also a perennial money loserhad a circulation of 497,878 during the week and 454,007 on Sunday for the same period. The News has seen major growth in its online nydailynews.com, reaching 26 million to 40 million unique visitors monthly, according to Capital Playbook. And the News’ coverage of New York sports and entertainment remains influential.

Zuckerman, the Montreal-born Boston Properties mogul who also owns the former newsweekly, now digital-only monthly U.S. News & World Report, paid $36 million for the Daily News in 1993. But the paper has never matched Murdoch’s flair for tabloid-style aggression, with comparatively flat, boring Page One headlines and less taste for the blood of the opposition, in its case, the snarling right wing. Both papers have served more as reflections of their publishers’ political sensibilities than as models of journalistic and economic re-invention in a drastically changing, unstable media environment. And now the News appears to be headed for kindling in a fire sale, opening the possibility that the US’ number one media market will be left with just a single tabloid newspaper.