World Press Trends

According to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), in its annual update of World Press Trends, more than half the world’s adult population read a newspaper: more than 2.5 billion in print and more than 600 million in digital form. That represents more readers and users than total global users of the Internet. But, says the report, publishers have not yet found ways to match that growth with revenues from digital platforms.

Despite people spending an increasing amount of time with digital services, overall media consumption levels have risen by only a few minutes per day, to a total in excess of 400 minutes a day. Two-thirds of this time is spent with TV or radio, during which people regularly do other things at the same time.

Online Newspaper Reading Behavior (Selected Countries) 


Percent of Users








Ever visit a paper site







Visit a paper site daily







Percent of pages viewed per visitor







Source: WAN-IFRA/ComScore, November 2012; In the US, for example, 67% of people who ever use the Internet, visit newspaper sites. But only 17% of daily web users turn to their newspaper site daily.

Time spent reading newspapers has remained relatively flat over the past five years, while internet usage levels have increased by approximately 20 minutes during the same period. The big loser has been radio, where consumption levels have fallen by 11% since 2007, as people turn to the web or music player for their music.

Newspaper advertising revenues have been declining as revenues lost in print have not been replaced by digital advertising. The study found that this decline correlates with a lack of “intensity” when it comes to digital news reading: digital news consumers spend less time and visit fewer pages on digital platforms than they do in print. The 2012 World Press Trends update found:


Despite the circulation declines in mature markets, newspaper reader levels remain high – Western Europe and North America have the highest levels of readership by region.

  • Free newspapers continue to be a factor in many markets, and saw global distribution of 36 million in 2011
  • Asia now accounts for a third of global circulation and has seen circulations grow by 16% over five years, while those in Western Europe and North America have declined by 17% during the same period
  • Newspaper circulation grew 3.5% in Asia year-on-year, and 4.8% in the Middle East and North Africa. It fell 3.4% in Europe, 3.3% in Latin America, and 4.3% in North America. Circulation in Australasia was stable
  • Scandinavian, along with Switzerland and Austria, continue to have the highest readership of newspapers per capita, with South Korea and Hong Kong rising to top-10 positions.
  • More than 2.5 billion people read newspapers in print at least once a week and 600 million read newspapers online. Of those online readers, 500 million read both print and online and 100 million access newspapers in their digital version only.
  • More than 40% of the world’s digital audience read a newspaper online, up from 34% a year ago.
  • Newspaper paid-for circulation increased by 1.1% globally in 2011 compared with 2010, to 512 million.
  • The global newspaper audience has grown by 4.2% since 2007.


Newspapers are a 200 billion dollar annual industry. Newspaper advertising has declined 25% globally over the past five years. North America alone accounts for nearly three-quarters of this decline. Declines in Western Europe have eased in recent years.

  • Newspaper advertising revenue totaled US$96 billion in 2011, 20% of the overall ad market, down from US128 billion in 2007. 
  • North America accounts for 72% of the decline in the value of newspaper advertising worldwide. Advertising declines in Western European newspapers have eased in recent years.
  • Much of the advertising revenue decline has also been in classified, which has fallen from 24% of all newspaper advertising to 19% over five years.
  • Classified has been particularly severely hit in the United States, where it has fallen by 65% in five years.

Digital newspaper ad revenues

Digital is having only a small impact on newspaper revenues, says the report, compared to print. While there are some markets, notably the United States and Sweden, where digital revenues exceed 10% of all advertising, digital accounted for only an estimated 2.2% of all newspaper advertising globally last year, or 2.1 billion dollars.

  • Overall digital advertising market rose from US$ 42 billion to US$76 billion from 2007 to 2011. Only 2.2% of total newspaper advertising revenues in 2011 came from digital platforms.
  • Search advertising accounts for 58% of all digital advertising and 13% of all advertising expenditure.
  • While digital advertising revenues are growing steadily, television continues to be the dominant medium, with 40% of the world’s advertising. Internet advertising is growing rapidly, but much of this is far from traditional media advertising: 58% of it comes from search.

Media Share of Global Advertising 


% of Total

Global Television








Source: WAN-IFRA, November 2012

In conclusion, says the report, the facts are hard to dismiss: the World Press Trends survey shows that newspapers are pervasive, they are part of the fabric of our societies. Our industry is stronger than many imagine.

The WAN-IFRA World Press Trends survey is the largest of its kind, containing data from more than 75 countries, representing more than 90% of global industry turnover. The 2012 report includes circulation data from over 150 countries drawn from local sources and auditing bureaus, and covers over 97% of the world’s newspaper industry by turnover.

N.B. The total global print readership figure covers only daily newspapers of which there are approximately 12,000 worldwide, with a total circulation every day well in excess of half a billion. It excludes readership among non-daily and Sunday newspapers, of which there are an estimated 80,000 worldwide. These are likely have readership levels exceeding those of daily newspapers. And now there are also more than half a billion people who read their newspaper online.

Learn more about WAN-IFRA here, or through the WAN-IFRA Magazine here.



Next story loading loading..