Circulation Woes Reach beyond U.S

Article excerpt

DECLINING NEWSPAPER circulation was not endemic to the United States last year but struck most nations, especially those in the industrial world, according to the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers.

"Newspaper circulation, and particularly penetration, are down in a majority of countries, and this is now looking like a long term trend, especially in the more developed countries," said Timothy Balding, director general of the group, known by its French acronym, FIEJ.

Speaking at the organization's 48th World Newspaper Congress in Paris, he painted a rather somber picture of newspapers around the world, but especially in the developed nations, one of declining circulation, penetration and share of total advertising.

"Looking back, the nineteen eighties seem now like a Golden Age for newspapers," Balding said.

Between 1986 and 1990 the number of newspapers around the world surged, and daily circulation soared 80% in nations FIEJ tracks. In the overwhelming majority of countries ad revenues advanced "well ahead of inflation," he said.

Then came the 1990s and a global economic slump that hit advertising particularly hard. By and large, the recovery for newspapers has been less than robust.

Last year, Balding said, newspapers in most countries "continued to claw back advertising revenues lost in the recession, but still have some way to go to regain pre-recession levels."

Despite the rebound in ad revenues, the print media's loss of advertising "is apparently in permanent decline" -- again most sharply in developed countries -- he said.

Circulation: more down than up

Balding, summarizing the results of FIEJ's annual global snapshot of newspapers, World Press Trends, said that in 23 of the 40 nations tracked, daily newspaper circulation declined last year, including drops of 1.9% in Europe, 1.3% in the United States and 0.2% in Japan.

More troubling is the longer trend of circulation declines in developed nations. Since 1986, European Union circulation is down 6.8%. U.S. circulation is down 5.6%, and Japan's has dipped slightly.

In the European community, U.K. circulation declined 16.4% over five years, followed by drops of 14.4% in Switzerland, 15.9% in Greece, 13.7% in Finland, 10.9% in Ireland. Circulation gainers over five years were led by Spain, up 36.6%; Luxembourg, up 28.3%; and Germany, up 6.6%.

Elsewhere, nation's recording large newspaper circulation growth over five years are India, 28.5%; Latvia, 25.8%; Peru, 89.5%; Singapore, 5.9%; Malaysia, 4.7%.

In total daily circulation, Japan, at 71.9 million, maintained a huge lead over all nations last year, with U.S. circulation of 59 million a distant second, Germany's 25.7 million in third place, and India surging past the United Kingdom for fourth place with 21.7 million.

In Russia, daily circulation estimated at 96 million in 1988 has plummeted to 8 million in 1993, FIEJ, said. …