Did You Know...

That major newspapers are in danger of folding?

On December 11, 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported on the plight of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 140-year-old journalistic mainstay of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Chronicle suffered a 16% drop in subscriptions between April and September of 2005, and nation-wide other newspapers are losing an average of more than two percent of their subscribers annually.

This is not strictly a North American phenomenon. One of Germany's most celebrated dailies, the Zeitung, suffered such severe reversals in ad sales that it was brought to the brink of bankruptcy in October of 2002. In Manila, the owners of Today and Manila Standard opted to merge their businesses last year, publishing a single paper to minimize losses and make a profit. In Paris, government subsidies to national newspapers are keeping them afloat.

What is causing the problem? "The components of what we historically know as the newspaper have become unbundled," says Warburg Pincus, managing director of Mark Colodny. Google and Yahoo can offer sharply targeted local ads, craigslist has free classifieds, and news is available at no charge on the Internet.

The defection from the printed daily is particularly significant among younger, techno-savvy readers, a majority of whom garner their news from their laptops rather than from newspapers. Internet sites post stories recommended by other readers, navigation to information of choice is readily available, and the classified listings are up-to-date and easily accessible.

The exception to the "rule of readership decline" is Asia. According to the 2005 edition of the World Association of Newspapers' annual survey of press trends, the world's three largest newspaper markets are China (93.5 million copies sold daily), India (78.8 million), and Japan (70.4 million). Asia enjoyed an overall 4.1% circulation increase in 2004. Of the world's top 100 daily circulation newspapers, three-quarters are published in Asia.

Why is Asian newspaper readership growing, while it is declining in North America and Europe? According to Internetworldstats.com, as of November 21, 2005, 35.5% of Europeans and 68.2% of North Americans had access to the Internet. But in Asia, only 9.2% of the population was online.

Will this trend towards increased newspaper readership change as the Internet makes further inroads on Asian communications media? Only time will tell.


Sources:

de la Rosa, Fred. "Newspapers Looking for Readers." March 20, 2005. The Manila Times. Available at http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2005/mar/20/yehey/opinion/20050320opi2.html

Fine, Jon. "The Daily Paper of Tomorrow." January 9, 2006. BusinessWeek Online. Available at http://www.businessweek.com/@@nprMumcQhdobixoA/magazine/content/06_02/b3966026.htm

Landler, Mark. "Woes at Two Pillars of German Journalism." January 21, 2004. The New York Times. Available at
http://journalism.berkeley.edu/projects/euromedia/archives/001785.html

Menn, Joseph. "San Francisco Chronicle Struggles as Internet Siphons Readers, Ads." December 11, 2005. The Los Angeles Times.

Stone, Phillip M. "French National Dailies: Severe Hemorrhaging Worsening, Cardiac Arrest Nears for Some." Stone and Associates Media Solutions. Available at http://www.astonesthrow.ch/analysis_france.htm.

Stone, Phillip M. "Global  Newspaper Circulation Up, Global Newspaper Advertising Up, So What's All  The Doom and Gloom About? Because the Big Boom Is In Asia, Not In Europe Nor the US." Stone and Associates Media Solutions. Available at http://www.astonesthrow.ch/analysis_Asia.htm.

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