How’s this for breaking news, the newspaper industry is thriving. According to new data from the World Association of Newspapers:
* Global newspaper circulation up 9.9% over five years and 2.36% over twelve months
* Daily newspaper titles surpass 10,000 for first time in history
* More than 450 million copies sold daily
* More than 1.4 billion paid-newspaper readers
* Total free daily circulation more than doubles in five years
Here’s an self-serving, enthusiastic quote from WAN CEO Timothy Balding: “What we are seeing completely contradicts the conventional wisdom that newspapers are in terminal decline…. The fashion of predicting the death of newspapers should be exposed for… nothing more than a fashion, based on common assumptions that are belied by the facts.”
So how does one read this data in the face of concerns the newspaper industry is being killed by the Web? While the industry newspaper may find some comfort in the data, they shouldn’t become complacent at all given most of the “growth” is coming from free daily newspapers that are chock-a-block on nearly every street corner these days. As well, fewer younger people are reading newspapers, which doesn’t bode well for the newspaper industry’s future in print.
If I were a newspaper executive, I’d use the WAN data as a sign there’s still demand for high-quality content from professional news organizations. But it should not deflect from the reality that more people are consuming information in different ways (blogs, videos, RSS feeds, podcasts, etc.) so newspapers need to aggressively embrace non-paper vehicle to stay vibrant.
Note: In other newspaper industry news, it’s interesting to see that a Belgian court has ruled that Google may not reproduce extracts from a variety of Belgian newspapers. Will this be the end of Google News as we know it? Will Google be forced to seek licensing deals from newspapers around the world? Is Google news a good thing or bad thing for newspapers given it has the potential to drive traffic to newspaper Web sites. Google’s response to the decision can be on its blog – the is “disappointed” and intends to appeal.