Global newspaper circulation in decline reaches emerging economies
Tue, Feb 12th 2013 9:41 PM
Global newspaper circulation in decline reaches emerging economies
Source: The Media Briefing

For years it's been thought that growing newspaper readership in emerging economies – the BRICs and the next 11 – was compensating for declining print circulation in developed world.

But the data shows this isn't the case. Numbers from the International Federation of Audit Bureaux of Circulation (IFABC) actually shows that trend ended in 2011. Printed newspaper readership is now declining in almost all major economies.

ABC members in 23 countries around the world sold 123.5 million newspapers per month in 2011, almost 2 million fewer than they sold in 2010, a decline of 1.6 percent. Every country included in the stats reported a decline in average circulation except Belgium, Brazil, Malaysia and the US (and Malaysia’s rise was 0.08 percent – slightly more than 3,000 copies).

The most severe circulation declines between 2010 and 2011 were:

– Romania: Three papers saw their circulation drop
by more than 40 percent, a further five saw declines of more than 20 percent, and only one paper, one of the country’s smallest Curierul National, saw a decline less than 10 percent. Overall, circulation fell 28 percent.

– Spain: The number two, three and four bestselling
newspapers that report to ABC in Spain – El Mundo, Marca and Abc – saw circulation fall more than 10 percent as overall circulation declined 7.8 percent. The best-selling newspaper – El Pais – saw circulation decline just 4,963, a 1.3 percent drop.

– Czech Republic: Total circulation fell 8.7 percent
year on year – more than 107,000 copies. The falls were pretty evenly spread across the nation’s newspapers, with none escaping with a smaller than five percent fall, and the biggest loser taking a 13.7 percent hit.

Of course, Spain is one of those western developed markets where you would expect circulation to be dropping, and the country is suffering from European financial crisis that undoubtedly is having some impact on Romania and Serbia as well.

China and India: A population of two billion turning away from newspapers

But what is perhaps more worrying for the global future of newspapers is that China saw the fifth biggest fall in circulation of those countries surveyed by the IFABC. Circulation declined by more than half a million between 2010 and 2011.

That’s a reversal that has only happened in the last few years. As recently as between 2008 and 2009, three of the five newspapers reporting back to ABC in China saw circulation rise, and total circulation for the five newspapers rose more than 33,000.

Another particularly worrying trend is India. If you compare
circulation of ABC members in India in 2008 and 2011, they added an extra 3.9 million copies over the three years, taking total circulation among the Indian ABC members to 30.5 million.

But, if you look at just 2010 to 2011 circulation fell for the first time since 2008. Admittedly the fall was only 220,000 and that relatively modest drop masks some serious volatility. The Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar saw circulation more than halved – with more than 1 million copies shaved off its circulation. But it looks like growth in the Indian newspaper market has at the very least stalled.

The world’s two largest countries by population, which were until recently increasing their newspaper consumption, have both started abandoning them.

The US: Not as good as it looks
The rise in circulation reported by US ABC members is encouraging, but not necessarily indicative of the country as a whole. The total gain of more than 116,000 copies – 3.2 percent – for the three papers that reported to the ABC was down entirely to the New York Times, which added 119,000 to its circulation between 2010 and 2011 alone. Meanwhile, the 33,000 fall in circulation at The Washington Post basically cancels out the 30,000 rise at The Wall Street Journal.

However, if you look back further, comparing circulation between 2008 and 2011, even that big bump at the NYT in 2011 can’t mask a net decline of more than 57,000 copies at the three papers.

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