Newspaper significance, part 1
The newspaper extinction timeline was one of those items that news websites and bloggers pick up and discard very quickly as well. But given the shaky (or non-existing) foundations it was built upon, the less said about it, the better.
But although Dawson wrote about “extinction”, he actually meant that newspapers would become “insignificant”, without – of course – explaining what that meant. My question would be, can you turn that around and ask how “significant” newspapers still are? And how this changes over the years?
You could try to find out how much newspapers contributed to the public and political agenda. You could ask audience members or politicians how much they value different media and newspapers in particular or how much they trust those sources. This research has been done in several countries. Problem is that those countries are mainly Western countries and also that the research is not really suitable to compare countries.
A second option would be to compare newspaper readership over times and between countries. Much more is available here, but there are still many countries without (public) readership data. More problematic is that a substantial part of the research is useless because of inconsistent data. Croatia – with 17 newspaper copies per 100 inhabitants – boasts a total newspaper readership of almost 90%, in Romania and Bosnia every newspaper is read by 8 readers, if we have to believe official data.
The only consistent data we have for almost every country in the world are total circulation and population. If we define newspaper significance as the number of copies per 100 (15+) inhabitants, we can compare countries, see how this changes over years and predict how it will develop.
The graph below (made with Google Docs and the heat-map gadget) show this “significance”, the darker the color, the more significant newspaper are.
In table format, the number of newspapers per 100 inhabitants shows that Luxembourg has the highest number of copies overall, more than 60. In 17 countries the number is 20 or more. When it comes to paid newspapers only, Norway leads with 54 copies, followed by other Nordic countries, Andorra, the UK, Switzerland and Austria (all above 30). Iceland and Luxembourg lead when free dailies are concerned.
|all papers||paid papers||free papers|
This is only part 1; in the coming weeks I will cover other continents and other years to see the trends in significance.
Population and paid copies come from World Press Trends, circulation of free dailies comes from my own database.