More People Read Newspapers Worldwide Than Use Web

More people read newspapers worldwide than ever before thanks to online – but publishers have yet to find ways to match readership growth with revenue.

This was the key finding of the World Association of Newspapers World Press Trends report issued this week. According to the data, more than half the world’s adult population read a newspaper: more than 2.5 billion in print and more than 600 million in digital form.

That represents more readers and users than total global users of the internet, WAN said. “The facts are hard to dismiss: newspapers are pervasive, they are part of the fabric of our societies.

Our industry is stronger than many imagine,” said WAN’s Larry Kilman. “At the same time, newspapers are changing, and must change, if they are to continue fulfilling their traditional role as watchdog, and as the provider of credible news and information that citizens need to make informed decisions in society.

"The problem is not one of audience. We have the audience. The hallenge is largely one of business, of finding successful business models for the digital age.”

Newspaper print circulations continue to rise strongly in Asia and the Middle East, offsetting declines in print circulation in Europe, North America and Latin America. Global circulation increased by 1.1 per cent between 2010 and 2011, according to the World Press Trends update.

At the same time, newspaper advertising revenues have been declining as revenues lost in print have not been replaced by digital advertising. The study found that this decline correlates with a lack of “intensity” when it comes to digital news reading – digital news consumers spend less time and visit fewer pages on digital platforms than they do in print.

This lack of intensity is reflected in newspapers’ share of digital revenues. Newspapers in many markets are taking steps to correct this by finding ways to increase usage online.

“This is an area where publishers can lay the groundwork for increasing revenues from digital – finding ways to increase the intensity of the user experience is at the base of increasing revenues,” Kilman said.

Newspaper paid-for circulation increased by 1.1 per cent globally in 2011 compared with 2010, to 512 million. The global newspaper audience has grown by 4.2 per cent since 2007.

Scandinavian and Alpine countries continue to have the highest readership of newspapers per capita, with South Korea and Hong Kong rising to top-ten positions. The top countries for newspaper readership are among those with the highest broadband penetration rates.

Print continues to provide the vast majority of newspaper company revenues, with circulation alone accounting for nearly half of all revenues. Newspapers are a $200 billion annual industry worldwide.

By Dominic Ponsford