2.5 Billion People Read a Printed Newspaper Regularly

Wan-Ifra’s World Press Trends report provides an annual review of the key trends within the global newspaper industry. The extensive report includes data from more than 70 countries, accounting for more than 90 per cent of the global industry’s value.

The 2012 report, released in June 2013, confirms that newspapers play a vital part in the daily lives of people all over the world.

Here are the facts:

  • 2.5 billion people read a newspaper in print regularly. That’s more than the 2.2bn who use the Internet, or who have the capability to get content on their mobile phone
  • More than 500m read newspapers both in print and digital form and 100m more read the digital version only
  • Globally, newspaper circulation grew by 1.1 per cent last year, to 512m copies and 4.2 per cent between 2007-2011. The growing newspaper circulation in Asia is offsetting circulation losses in the US and Western Europe
  • Newspaper readership remains high. Although Western Europe and North America have the highest levels of readership by region, in recent years Hong Kong and South Korea, two of the most wired countries in the world, have joined the ranks of nations with extremely high readership levels.

The Digital Challenge

Although quantitative information about the global industry is indicative of a robust news publishing industry, the industry continues to face challenges.

The most pressing challenge is to find successful business models for the digital age. Although digital audiences are growing and engagement is increasing, digital revenues have been slow to follow.

Currently, digital has only a small impact on total newspaper revenues in comparison with print. In the US and Sweden, digital revenues contribute in excess of 10 per cent of all newspaper ad revenue however, globally, digital accounts for just 2.2 per cent of all newspaper advertising.  It should be noted that the figures for digital readership vary greatly around the world due to differences in Internet penetration and local media consumption habits more generally, plus Wan-Ifra notes that it can be difficult to get digital figures from some markets.

Tablets Offer Opportunities for Publishers

Tablet usage is still evolving but already tablets are proving to be a very important platform for newspapers.

Last year, 56 million tablets were sold and 120m are expected to be sold this year, with this figure due to hit 665m or 21 per cent of all Internet users by 2016, according to Gartner.

The report highlights that the opportunity for newspapers lies not just in the number of people opting to use tablet computers, but in how they use them.

For example:

  • Le Monde reports that reading times associated with tablet apps are as high as those of printed newspapers – average 25 minutes. This compares with five minutes typically spent reading newspapers on a desk or laptop.
  • US publications have found that subscriptions conversion and retention levels for eReaders are higher than for print products.
  • A German study found that older readers read faster on the iPad than in print.

The improved navigation offered by tablet apps greatly improves the reader’s experience and consequently, readers seem to use their tablets to read newspapers more often and for longer, which results in them being more willing to pay for content.

Wan-Ifra notes that this presents potential for newspapers to mine the greater use of their digital products and offers digital display advertisers a wider, more regular audience, encourages more people to pay and creates a critical mass of audience from which to  spin-off additional digital products.

Looking Ahead

Wan-Ifra notes that although digital readership of newspapers is growing at impressive rates, reading frequency and intensity remain relatively low. The organisation sees this as providing an opportunity for newspapers to focus on improving navigation and usability to encourage readers to visit more often, stay longer and view more pages.

As the report states: newspaper websites don’t need more content, they need more consumption.

Although much of the focus for innovation is placed on digital, the data provided in this report demonstrates that the vast majority of revenue still comes from print and thus, Wan-Ifra notes that news publishers must continue to invest in print.

Above all, the report confirms that the newspaper and news media industry is stronger than many people imagine.