Print media: Is it globally doomed?


A woman reads a newspaper in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.



Marking the end of an era, Newsweek confirmed Thursday that it will transition to all-digital by the beginning of next year.

In its overview of the State of the News Media in 2011, the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism noted, "Among the major sectors, only newspapers suffered continued revenue declines last year—an unmistakable sign that the structural economic problems facing newspapers are more severe than those of other media. When the final tallies are in, we estimate 1,000 to 1,500 more newsroom jobs will have been lost—meaning newspaper newsrooms are 30% smaller than in 2000."

Is this the end of print media as we know it?

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Newspaper circulation declined in North America and Europe, by 9.2 percent and 2.9 percent respectively in the period between 2004 and 2009. However, it increased 16.4 percent in South America, 16.1 percent in Asia and 14.2 percent in Africa during the same period, according to a study by Columbia University titled "The Future of Print Media."

Two countries in which newspapers have actually seen an increase in popularity are Brazil and India.

Just this past week, The New York Times announced that it would be launching a Portuguese language online edition in 2013, likely in an effort to attract the large readership base in Brazil. On Oct. 2, The Financial Times announced that it would be expanding into the Latin American market, with a newspaper print site in São Paulo.

John Ridding, the CEO of Financial Times, said, "The launch of the new print site underscores our belief in a healthy future for print." He added, "The FT’s growing audience and product offerings in the region also affirm Latin America’s emergence as a major center for global business and finance."

The reason international brands are attempting to enter the Brazilian markets could be that newspaper circulation in Brazil, unlike in America, is stronger than ever, supported by a growing middle class. According to the Guardian, most Brazilian newspapers have seen growing sales and revenues. "At the beginning of September, print circulation of the country's newspapers was up 2.3 percent over the previous year."

According to the Instituto Verificador de Circulacao, 73 percent of Brazilians prefer to get their news from print media rather than online sources.

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Meanwhile, in India, circulation and revenue from newspapers has also seen an increase.

The Future of Print Media study noted, "From 2007 to 2009 revenue change in newspaper publishing, including advertisement, sales and other sources of income decreased 30 percent in the United States, 21 percent in the United Kingdom, 20 percent in Greece and 10 percent in Germany. By contrast it grew by 9 percent in India."

Robin Jeffrey, the author of "India's Newspaper Revolution," said earlier this year, "I think print in India has 10 to 15 years to go before it hits the sorts of downturn that is changing the print landscapes in the US and elsewhere."

Speaking to the Editors Guild of India in April, he attributed the growth of India's print media to rising literacy rates, according to The Times of India. He said, "The contest over ethics, taste and security in Indian media are similar to those that have gone on in the US, UK and other English speaking countries for more than 200 years."

Indian newspaper The Deccan Herald noted, "The country’s population is growing, in principle expanding their reader base. The country is also poor, it will take lot more time for internet to reach everyone."

While it acknowledged that newspaper circulation among young readers is stagnating and traffic to newspaper websites is growing around 30 to 40 percent a year, it also noted that the advertising industry in India has been slow to pick up on the trend of switching to online.

"Print has a reach of 189 million readers in the country. Internet has 96 million readers. Forty per cent of the advertisement-spend is on print, while Internet gets only 5 to 7 percent," said The Deccan Herald. Advertisers are less attracted to internet advertising in India, as the target narrows to a small range of the population.

More on GlobalPost: Portuguese language New York Times edition ready to launch in 2013