It is as if the whole of Birmingham suddenly stopped reading newspapers

 

Paidcontent summarises the latest ABC newspaper circulation figures from the UK (US and Australian comparisons follow below) in a single paragraph.   All
you need to know, says Paidcontent’s Patrick Smith, is that 465,895
less national newspaper copies were being sold – and given away – in
July 2009 compared to July 2008.

 

If we work on the principle of 2-3 readers per paper that would mean at least a million people – the equivalent to the population of Birmignham – have stopped reading a national newspaper over the past year.   If you added in regionals, the figure would almost certainly be much higher with Enders Analysis telling
the House of Commons culture, media and sports committee that 50% of
regional papers are at risk of closure in the next five years.

In the US, the equivalent of Wisconsin has stopped reading papers

The last US figures I could find were the ABC ones that came out at the end of April
(I believe new ones are out soon). Daily average circulation for 395 US
newspapers dropped from 37.1 million in March 2008 to 34.4 million this
year, so a total loss of 2.7 million sales.    Again, if we apply the parallel above, that means 5.5+ million plus US readers have deserted the industry – call it the equivalent of a medium sized (in population) US State like Wisconsin.

Better news from Australia

The latest ABC figures
from Australia imply that the country is bucking the trend. Sales of
all daily newspapers in Australia stand at 20.9 million, down only
0.7%. However, national newspapers fared worse showing a drop of 3.4%
on weekdays.Commenting in The Australian, Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy said that “the trend line for newspapers in Australia (is) really probably the best in the world.”

 

Is the news getting less bad?

At
the same time, it’s worth paying attention to some media commentators
who are predicting that the slump in the newspaper market may be
bottoming out – at least in the US.  Borrell Associates predicts a
rebound in newspaper advertising next year, however to put that into
context, even in 2014 predicted newspaper advertising ($30 billion)
will still be far below the $55 billion the industry managed earlier
this decade.

 

Like a number of other pundits in this
space, Borrell Associates doesn’t feel that newspapers are dead, just
that their future is to be leaner and “more interesting, more relative to their audiences”a view I share.

So
the overall trend is still very much in one direction as newspapers
battle for a future in a digital world, but it is a process of
evolution rather than a today / tomorrow thing. After all, 88% of newspaper reading time is still in print and not online.

 

Image – Birmingham, UK, by Paul Tomlins