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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 June, 2004, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Online newspapers tempt readers
Peter Feuilherade
BBC Monitoring staff in Istanbul

News stand in Red Square, Moscow
In Russia newspaper circulation has doubled in two years
The number of newspaper websites around the world has doubled since 1999, a study has found.

There has been a tremendous boom in the consumption of online editions.

Timothy Balding, director general of World Association of Newspapers said web audiences for newspapers have grown by 350% over the last five years.

He was addressing editors and executives from hundreds of newspapers who are meeting for the society's annual congress in Istanbul this week.

Global circulation

The past year was a challenging one for the world's newspapers, said Mr Balding.

Total global circulation was down slightly for the year in the 208 countries surveyed by the Paris-based association, which represents 18,000 newspapers.

But over the last five years, newspaper sales worldwide went up by 4.75%.

The Sun Newspaper Online
China: 85 million
India: 72 million
Japan: 70 million
USA: 55 million
Well over one billion people now read a newspaper every day.

Europeans are buying fewer newspapers. Circulation fell in 13 of the 15 "old" European Union countries, excluding the new members who joined in May. The biggest drop was in Ireland, followed by the UK.

But although sales have declined in many mature markets, some developing markets are still strong. Newspaper sales were up by over 4% in China, the world's biggest market, and by an impressive 9% in India.

China has the largest total daily circulation of any country in the world, with more than 85 million copies sold, followed by India, Japan and the USA.

In Russia, the number of dailies published has almost doubled in two years.

The growth in new free commuter dailies is also expanding the reach of the written press to a younger generation, said the association's Timothy Balding.

The number of free dailies has shot up, with a 16% increase in 2003 from a year earlier, and a 24% increase in the past five years in countries for which data exists.

Spending on ads

Newspaper advertising revenues increased globally by a modest 2% last year.

In China, they were up by more than 11%. Newspapers' share of the world media advertising pie fell.

But they are still the second largest advertising medium, after television, which took 38% of global media ad-spend in 2003.

The rapid growth of broadband in many countries means people are spending less of their leisure time watching television, preferring to surf the web instead.

This led to more visits to newspaper web sites, according to research by the World Association of Newspapers and ZenithOptimedia presented at the Istanbul gathering.

The migration of classified advertising from the print media to the web continues slowly. Currently, just over 2% of newspaper ad revenues comes from the web.


The combination of financial constraints, falling circulation, ceaseless technological change and the need to redefine relations with readers pose a threat to the press worldwide, according to the association.

Picking out some future trends for the newspaper industry, Timothy Balding predicted more colour, new editorial concepts, and experiments in new formats and design.

In their fight to maintain or boost circulation, many broadsheet papers have shown a resurgence of interest in the tabloid format. At least 20 of the world's respected broadsheets have made the move to tabloid.

The digital revolution is constantly changing the ways in which newspapers collect, produce and distribute information.

For editors and journalists, the challenge is to identify what aspects of this revolution they should invest in, and what is potentially dangerous for the profession, speakers at the WAN congress agreed.

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