The WAP figures reveal that global newspaper circulation is up 9.95 per cent over five years and 2.36 per cent over 12 months, while daily newspaper titles surpass 10,000 for first time in history; more than 450 million copies are sold daily; there are more than 1.4 billion paid-newspaper readers; and that total free daily circulation has more than doubled in five years.
According to Australian Press Council data, Monday to Friday 2.3 million Australians buy one or more national and metropolitan newspapers which are read by nine million people. Those purchases increase to more than three million on Saturdays with 10.4 million readers and to 3.5 million with 10.8 million readers on Sundays.
However, circulations are in decline except for Saturday editions and Sunday titles. APC figures show that in the decade 1995-2005, there was a 6 per cent overall decrease in Monday to Friday national metropolitan circulation from 2.426 million to 2.273 million, steady circulation in Saturday editions at 3.038 million compared with 3.054 million 10 years earlier, and a significant growth of 5.3 per cent in Sunday circulation from the earlier figure of 3.278 million to 3.453 million.
The APC acknowledges the data are threatening and that newspapers are clearly in a transformational phase, pointing out that the best business model for a prosperous future for newspapers is not obvious. However, while it cannot be said the local newspaper industry is in terminal decline “the juggernaut of change is challenging everybody in the print part of the news industry”, it says.
The “juggernaut of change” is impacting on newspapers in the United States with circulation of 814 of the nation’s largest daily newspapers declining 1.9 per cent over the six months ending March 31, 2005 compared with the same period the previous year, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Circulations of major newspaper titles are also on the decline in the UK, falling by June 2004 year-by-year by 4.7 per cent.
While some newspapers are doing well, the overarching trend is declining circulation and dwindling revenues from advertising, particularly for national and major metropolitan titles.
But the industry is waging a counter-attack. Newspaper companies are rapidly transforming into multimedia companies. According to the Australian Press Council, the indicators reveal an increasing number of Australians are turning to Internet sources for information in real time, which it says has led major metropolitan newspapers, and some regional dailies, to establish parallel print and online editions.
In the UK, The Guardian is investing £15 million in its websites over the next 18 months as it aims to update its digital services for the web 2.0 era with features including video. Guardian Media Group chief executive, Carolyn McCall, says the organisation had to adapt and change. “What we’ve done so far is our own version of web 1.0, but we want to continue to web 2.0 and what comes after that. We need to be agile and ready to change.”
The UK regional press is also moving to multimedia services. Johnston Press - owners of the Lancashire Evening Post - is planning to create 70 multimedia newsrooms capable of filing video reports. “If we bury our heads in the sand, this industry is going to go nowhere apart from deeper into the sand. The opportunity to multi-skill and be comfortable in a variety of platforms will be increasingly commonplace,” says chief executive Tim Bowdler.
The Times of London, has also ventured into multimedia, with a £10 million relaunch of its website Times Online. The money has been spent on design, IT editorial and marketing of the new site which went live on February 5 this year. Times Online has grown to become one of the most read newspaper websites in the world with more than 10 million unique monthly users, according to the UK Press Gazette.
In Australia The Sydney Morning Herald has developed an extensive multi-media website at www.smh.com.au with blogs, video and podcast all standard. In 2005 smh.com.au recorded a 21 per cent rise, from 1.9 million average monthly unique browsers to 2.3 million for the corresponding periods, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The theage.com.au recorded a 26 per cent increase in traffic, from 1.4 million average monthly unique browsers in the final quarter of 2005 to 1.7 million for the same quarter a year later. The five main News Limited websites all rose, ranging from 15 per cent for heraldsun.com.au to 63 per cent for dailytelegraph.com.au.
Innovative responses to new challenges have become standard practice in the newspaper industry. The Financial Times has launched a new mobile service allowing users access to FT content via mobile telephones and PDAs, reports online Press Gazette. The FT Mobile News reader is a free application giving users access to FT news, comment and analysis, stock prices, a 30-day search function and premium content for subscribers, and is compatible with most new phones, including BlackBerry.
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