WORLD: Newspapers surge ahead in Asia but slump in the West

Circulation of paid newspapers rise continuously in China and India but fall in the United States and European Union, according to latest WAN report

The Straits Times
Monday, July 21, 2008

By Chua Hian Hou

It's good and bad news for the global newspaper industry, with Asian markets thriving while the headlines in the United States and Europe are all gloom.

The circulation of paid newspapers rose 2.6 per cent last year while advertising revenue increased 0.86 per cent -- both figures boosted by a surge in Chinese and Indian news dailies.

Newspapers were also thriving in more developed Asian markets such as Singapore, where circulation grew 16 per cent, according to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

It also noted that Singaporeans are the world's fourth biggest newspaper buyers, with 449 sales per 1,000 adults.

Asia is clearly fertile ground for newspapers with rising literacy, more free time and greater disposable income driving circulation.

Chinese, Indian and Japanese papers now comprise 74 of the world's top 100 circulating dailies, up from 62 in 2006.

The circulation of Indian papers grew by 11.22 per cent last year while Chinese papers were up 3.84 per cent.

Chinese newspaper revenue shot up 16.1 per cent. But turnover in India dipped 1.42 per cent, although when taken over a five-year period, revenues were still up a healthy 64.8 per cent.

It is a different story for American and some European papers though, with many reeling from a continued slump in circulation and ad revenues.

Last year, circulation overall fell by 3 per cent in the United States and 2.4 per cent in the European Union, said the WAN in its June report.

Circulation in Denmark dipped 2.1 per cent, Britain was down 3.5 per cent, while Latvia's circulation crashed a jaw-dropping 26.5 per cent.

Revenue in the US, still the world's biggest newspaper market in advertising dollars, was down 3 per cent, while it fell 1.79 per cent in Britain.

Most European countries though, managed to increase revenues, even those that saw circulation going down.

Ad revenue in Denmark was up 0.7 per cent, while in Romania, it surged 20.4 per cent. Even Latvia, despite its steep circulation cuts, managed to increase ad sales by 6.2 per cent.