June 2, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Newspapers are a growth business worldwide, media group reports

This is the day that the World Association of Newspapers in Paris comes out with its annual World Press Trends report. Rather than tell you what’s in a few of today’s dailies we thought that we would share with our faithful readers some of the incidental intelligence about newspapers worldwide that we found in a detailed press release provided by our friends at WAN about their 930-page report on newspapers published in 232 countries and territories.

WAN starts with the assertion that “newspapers are a growth business,” that on a worldwide basis paid circulation was up 2.57% in 2007, that advertising was up slightly last year and has increased 14.3% in the past five years. Indeed, WAN notes, “Newspaper circulation has been rising or stable in three-quarters of the world’s countries over the past five years and in nearly 80% of countries in the past year.”

That’s a shocker to those familiar with the newspaper situation in the United States. Indeed, many U.S. dailies have been in a cost-cutting cycle that has seen staff reductions and other cuts in a number of cities. WAN agrees that the North American picture isn’t the same as the rest of the world, with circulation down 2.14% and an even greater decline — 2.37% — in the European Union countries. Advertising in U.S. dailies — the largest advertising market in the world — was down 3% last year.

So where is all this growth? WAN reports that the number of newspaper titles is up everywhere but North America — up 5.3% in Asia, 4.55% in Australia and Oceana, 3.99% in Africa, 2.54% in South America and 0.48% in Europe.

Paid daily circulation has reached a new high of 532 million worldwide, according to WAN. The five largest newspaper markets are China, with 107 million copies sold daily; India, 99 million; Japan, 68 million; U.S., almost 51 million; and Germany, 20.6 million. WAN adds that there are now 312 free daily newspapers in the world, with a total circulation of 41 million daily, meaning that 573 million newspapers are circulated every day.

Who buys all these non-free newspapers? WAN says Japan tops the list, with 624 daily sales per thousand adults, followed by Norway with 580 sales per thousand, Finland with 503 and Sweden and Singapore with 449 each.

And who really reads these newspapers? Glad you asked because WAN says the Turks spend the most time with their newspapers — 74 minutes a day, followed by the Belgians with 54 minutes, and the Finns and Chinese, with an average of 48 minutes each.

Newspapers may have their problems, but they don’t seem to be universally fading away.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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