Are Newspapers Dying? Not in Europe

generic online newspaper newspapers CBS/iStockphoto

European newspapers are weathering the media crisis better than their U.S. counterparts, a report released Monday suggested.

The report, by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, shows that while papers in Europe also have been affected by the fallout from the economic crisis, a decline in readership and advertising, and fierce competition from the Internet, they have generally been hit less hard than papers in the United States.

The U.S. newspaper publishing market declined by 30 percent between 2007 and 2009, the report said. Britain was not far behind, losing 21 percent of its market in the same period, while Greece and Spain's markets fell by 20 and 16 percent, respectively.

However, much of Europe fared better, with the publishing market declining by 10 percent in Germany, 7 percent in Portugal, Sweden and Finland, 4 percent in France, and just 2 percent in Austria, the report said.

One possible reason for Europe's relative resilience is the continent's lesser reliance on advertising revenues. In U.S. papers, ads accounted for 87 percent of revenue in 2008, while in Germany, Spain and Sweden they made up for 57 percent, with the balance coming from copy sales.

The shift of classifieds and other ads to websites has shrunk advertising in papers across the board, said the report, adding that ads in papers' online editions "only partially compensate for the decline in print advertising revenues."

With online media and free newspapers syphoning off readers from traditional papers, circulation has been steadily decreasing in recent years in nearly all 31 developed countries monitored by the OECD.

Still, it was not all gloom and doom.

A growing appetite for the press in emerging markets helped prop up global circulation numbers. Circulation was up an average of about 35 percent in global powerhouses Brazil, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa.

"Certainly the data does not currently lend itself to make the case for 'the death of the newspaper' as suggested by some ... in particular if non-OECD countries and a potential positive effect of the economic recovery are taken into account," the report concluded.

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