Decline steeper in Britain than rest of world

Fascinating article from Peter Preston at The Observer today, in which he reveals how the newspaper industry in Britain is in a far steeper decline than some of its rivals worldwide.

While it is all to usual to compare our papers with the collapsing industry in the United States, Preston reveals this is merely a look at the two worst declining countries.

According to a Organistation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study, US circulations are falling like a stone with only 30 per cent of people saying they read a paper the previous day. In Britain, the country which fared second worse, of the 31 OECD members, only 33 per cent of people claimed to have read a paper recently.

But, the study and Preston both point out, these figures are vastly different in other parts of the world. In Japan, the figure is 94 per cent and in Norway it is 82 per cent.

Preston writes that a number of explanations and excuses can be used: circulation figures here made artificially worse by quality newspapers hacking away at bulk sale giveaways ; a particularly deep UK recession;. a rampant internet news sector and a rapid rise in cover prices among them.

But he points out: ‘ The countries where online newspaper website consumption is highest – Korea, Norway, Iceland, Japan – outscore Britain almost two to one and fare much better at protecting print circulation as well. Austria, pretty close to the UK in news site usage, lost a mere 2% of publishing turnover in the two years where we saw 21% go.

‘Here’s a hint in these statistics – the sort of people who get their news online are also the sort of people who buy print newspapers. It’s not one or the other; it’s often both. And nothing they find prompts the OECD researchers to conclude that print papers have a doomed, finite future.’

Preston adds that the UK also lags behind America in terms of digital advertising, that competition in this country is too introverted and that British papers struggle to connect with younger readers:

‘Worse, we’re particularly poor at connecting with new, young readers – who may prefer news on the net, but often choose no news at all. We fulminate about immigration, but don’t provide a service to meet their different needs. We tell ourselves that Fleet Street knows best, but change painfully little in style or range as the crisis bites.’

Source: The Observer

State of Play: Self-flagellation

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