Despite predictions of their imminent demise, newspapers are not only still with us, but even expanding their readership—in Asia, at least.

According to the latest annual World Press Trends survey of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), “print newspaper circulations continued to rise in Asia and decline in mature markets in the West” in 2012 and 2013. From an e-book writer’s perspective, this matters not only in terms of what platform remains dominant as a publication platform, but also, for many writers, what the future holds for an important source of additional income.

newspaperAccording to WAN-IFRA, the data showed that:

“newspaper circulation declined only -0.9 per cent globally in 2012 from a year earlier, as rising circulations in Asia offset circulation losses elsewhere. Circulation declined -2.2 per cent globally between 2008 and 2012, with the steepest declines in Europe. Circulation declined over one year by -6.6 per cent in North America, -5.3 per cent in western Europe, -8.2 per cent in eastern Europe, and -1.4 per cent in the Middle East and North Africa. It increased +1.2 per cent in Asia, +3.5 per cent in Australia and New Zealand, and +0.1 per cent in Latin America.”

Asia is obviously not the only market where newsprint is still relatively strong, then, with highly sophisticated markets like Australia, homeland of Rupert Murdoch and many press barons, showing even stronger increases in readership numbers. Over five years, though, the Asian circulation growth figures are even stronger, almost 10 percent, only just behind the Middle East and North Africa in terms of readership growth.

Obviously, communities with rapidly rising living standards are seeing sharp uptake in news media, despite the continuing outgrowth of digital information. But the data also suggests that advertising revenue is far more vulnerable to the outgrowth of Internet platforms, with Asia far less conspicuous as a source of growth in marketing spend. “Advertising revenues declined over one year by -7.6 per cent in North America, -3.4 per cent in western Europe, -5.6 per cent in eastern Europe, and -8.3 per cent in Australia and New Zealand,” said WAN-IFRA. “It rose +9.1 per cent in Latin America, +3.6 per cent in Asia, and +2.3 per cent in the Middle East and North Africa.”

newspaperThe WAN-IFRA survey also looked at what kinds of devices are proving popular, and found that “mobile and tablets are rapidly becoming a medium of choice for many news consumers, accounting for 20 per cent of page views in markets where data is available. Research in the United States, Germany and France suggest that news engagement via tablet, as measured by time spent with news content, is equal to that of the printed newspaper.”

Clearly, even where they have opted for print newspapers, readers are moving onto the tablets, and can look forward to added content and even subsidized devices from news companies to foster their reading preferences even more.


  1. Paul, good story but a bit misleading to US readers. I know you worked in Hong Kong so you know Asia a bit, and as you know I’ve been in Asia for 20 years, at the Daily Yomiuri in Tokyo and then the Taipei Times in Taiwan. I don’t buy those Pr surveys you cite. Young people today in Asia do not read newspapers for news. Most of them get their news from the internet and smart phones. They don’t even watch TV that much anymore except to see movies and entertaiment shows. Of course, that’s just my POV from Japan and Taiwan. In less wealthy Asian nations, where purchase of computers or smart phones is a luxury, i guess print newspapers still have a place. But not for long. Print newspapers are snailpapers, and arrive with news that is 12 hours even 24 hours late, yes or no? Sigh.

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