World Association of Newspapers: Interesting information

I am an avid reader of Chandoba – Marathi version of kids popular magazine Chandamama (http://www.chandamama.com) and still buy its monthly issue. (Don’t judge me by this…I also read other stuff for ‘grown ups’ :P) Must mention here that the magazine that was sold for Rs. 5 not long ago has now touched Rs. 20 apiece!!!


I came across a rather interesting bit published in Nov 2008 issue that talked about India’s newspaper circulation numbers in comparison with the rest of the world. It aroused my interest and hence I decided to dig further – based on the references cited in that snippet.

The reference was a report published in June 2008 by World Association of Newspapers, aka WAN (http://www.wan-press.org/article2825.html). WAN is the apex body of leading newspapers publishers. It represents over 18,000 publishers from 102 countries. WAN aims to defend and promote press freedom and promote co-operation between its member organizations across the world. 

Apart from this WAN also publishes many reports, statistics about the newspaper circulation, its growth and the direction. It is considered to be a credible source for anything to do with newpaper publishing industry.

Now coming back to the article in that kids magazine, what caught my attention was this:
India prints over 99,000,000 (99 million or 9.9 crores) copies of daily newspapers and stands at second position. China tops the list with 107,000,000 copies (10.7 crores). China and India are followed by Japan (68 million or 6.8 crores) and USA (50 million or 5 crores). In 2007, the daily newspaper circulation in India rose by 11.2% as against worldwide rise of just 2.57%. Amongst world’s top 100 daily newspapers (on basis of circulation) 74 are from China, India and Japan

Here is elaborate information  on this:

I found this interesting from different perspectives:

Firstly, contrary to common perception, the world newspapers circulation is still growing (though by just 2.57%). So even with the advent of
e
lectronic media, an era of ‘breaking news’ and ‘online news’ people still want to read dailies – that is a very heartening. What makes me more happy is the fat that the growth in India (at 11.2%) is still very strong. It means that people still have faith in ‘published’ news. With so many ’24 hrs.’ news channels trying to ‘create’ news, people are relying more and more with what is ‘written’. So some positives in there…

Another thing that makes me happy is the dominance of Asian countries (China, India, Japan) in that top 100 list. One should understand that the newpaper publishing in the West and US has a long tradition. Many newspapers have gained such a great credibility that the opinions published in these dailies can actually change the public perception. Many notable newspapers in the US and Europe take a significant position in lots of social issues, welfare causes and debates. I do not see that happening in India to that extent.
Even then, the top 100 list is dominated by Asian dailies – and it is not only because of the population. Another reason for this, at least in India, is that people ‘believe’ what is printed in newspapers. They are influenced by opinion of newspapers and often see the news (and the world) in that direction. 
So Indian newspapers have a great opportunity to be a ‘change agent’ for society, to bring about social reforms through responsible journalism. A mere rise in circulation will not make any difference.

Considering that India’s population is 1.2 billion and literacy of around 60%, there should be around 720 million readers in India. If we assume that per family people buy only one daily (assuming average size of family as 4), the total newspaper circulation in India should be roughly 180 million. (I know this is a rough approximation, but serves the purpose well).

So India’s circulation of 99 million is well below that 180 million figure – which means the daily newspapers have not yet reached to all (literate) people and there is huge scope for growth. So it can be estimated that India’s growth story will continue in years to come.

Another significant point I want to mention about the trends in Indian publishing industry (which is not covered  in WAN report) is – the new wave of consolidation within the industry and with allied industries, mainly electronic media.

A lot of big publishers are aquiring small and regional dailies to increase geographical footprint. Many publishing houses are tying up with electronic media. e.g. IBN with Lokmat, NDTV with Indian Express etc. Some publishing houses such as Times group and India Today are launching their own news channels (Times Now and Headlines Today). So he competition is not between the traditional newspaper publishers, but also with the electrinic media. This will have both positive and negative effects – on circulation, on the integrity of news reporting etc. But it is something the newspapers must learn to live with. They do not have a choice.

Ultimately the responsible journalism will survive any competition in the long run.

~ Kaustubh
P.S.: The role and impact of advertising revenue in newspapers and the recent trend of publshing houses going public to raise capital is another topic of discussion – which I find equally interesting (primarily because I have invested in them :P)

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