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Newspaper circulation is growing despite downturn: World Association of Newspapers

Newspaper circulation is growing despite downturn: World Association of Newspapers
Group Chief Executive Officer of Independent News and Media PLC Gavin O'Reilly gestures as he speaks during the 19th World Newspaper Advertising Conference and Expo in Barcelona on May 27, 2009. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) is convinced that daily newspapers have a future and will discuss growth strategies at a conference in Barcelona.

Despite the global financial crisis, newspaper circulation grew 1.3 per cent worldwide in 2008, the President of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) said Wednesday in a speech that contradicted “misleading” reports predicting the imminent death of newspapers.

“The simple fact is that, as a global industry, our printed audience continues to grow,” said Gavin O’Reilly, WAN President and CEO of Independent News and Media.

“But you might say that this growth is taking place in the developing markets of the world and masks a continued downward trend in the developed markets. And to a degree this is true, but not the whole story, as newspaper companies in these markets have embraced digital technologies to further improve their audience reach,” he said in a speech opening the World Association of Newspapers Power of Print Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Predicting the death of newspapers “seems to have reached the level of a new sport,” he said.

“That this doom and gloom about our industry has largely gone unanswered is, to me, the most bizarre case of willful self-mutilation ever in the annals of industry,” he said. “And it continues apace, with commentators failing to look beyond their simple rhetoric and merely joining the chorus that the future is online, online, online, almost to the exclusion of everything else. This is a mistake. This oversimplifies a rather complex issue.”

O’Reilly said:

  • 1.9 billion people read a paid daily newspaper every day.
  • Newspapers reach 41 percent more adults than the world wide web.
  • More adults read a newspaper every day than people eat a Big Mac every year.

“Whilst it may be true to say that in some regions, circulations are not a boom sector, newspapers continue to be a global mass media to be reckoned with, achieving a global average reach of over one third of the world’s population,” he said. “So if we are a declining industry, the definition of declining is a strange one. We are an industry with massive reach of the global population and one that achieves massive revenues.”

And while the financial crisis has clearly had a serious impact on newspaper revenues, the downturn is not worse for newspapers than for other industries. “This is not to deflect the seriousness of the situation, and it is very serious, but it remains a fact—all major media are suffering alongside our colleagues in other major business sectors,” he said.

O’Reilly’s speech was based largely on preliminary data to be included in World Press Trends, the annual report from WAN to be published next month. The data shows:

  • Global newspaper circulation increased 1.3 per cent in 2008, to almost 540 million daily sales, and was up 8.8 per cent over five years. When free dailies are added, circulation rose 1.62 per cent in 2008 and 13 per cent over five years. Europe is the hotbed for free newspaper development—23 per cent of daily newspapers in Europe were free in 2008.
  • Newspaper circulation increased 6.9 per cent in Africa last year, 1.8 per cent in South America, and 2.9 per cent in Asia. It decreased 3.7 per cent in North America, 2.5 per cent in Australia and Oceania, and 1.8 per cent in Europe. But in many mature markets where circulation is declining, newspaper reach remains high—many European countries continue to reach over 70 per cent of the adult population with paid newspapers alone. In Japan, it’s 91 per cent. In North America, it’s 62 per cent.
  • Circulation gains are not only occurring in the emerging markets of China and India; 38 per cent of countries reported gains in 2008, and 58 per cent saw circulation increase over five years.
  • Though newspaper advertising revenues were down 5 per cent in 2008, print media still takes 37 per cent of world advertising revenues.
  • While the digital explosion has a global impact, it is not a uniform impact. The United States and the United Kingdom are most affected; the UK accounts for 38 per cent of digital revenues in all of Europe. And compared to all of Europe, the United States has 62 per cent of the total market.
  • In the United States, combined print and online newspaper audience grew 8 per cent. Fifty-two percent of online newspaper readers spend the same amount of time as they did previously with newspaper content, 35 per cent say they spend more time overall with newspaper content, and 81 per cent of online newspaper readers say they’ve read a printed newspaper in the same week.

Although falling newspaper circulations are routinely blamed on the internet, the evidence paints a more complex picture, said O’Reilly. “Why is it, that something as sophisticated as media consumption always get relegated to an oversimplified spat between print and online? Why must it always be a case of either or? Is it just possible that the consumer is capable of multi-tasking; is capable of consuming a multitude of media and that it need not necessarily be just online?"

The Power of Print and the World Newspaper Advertising Conferences have drawn hundreds of newspaper executives from 50 countries in Barcelona to exchange ideas on business strategies for the future. The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 122 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.

Date posted: May 27, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 1249