Free newspaper ‘hype’ far from over

Reports from WAN-IFRA suggest that the ‘hype’ of free newspaper is over. Data, however, suggest otherwise.

If there was a hype, it was already over in 2009 when worldwide circulation (end-of-year data) dropped with 18% to 34 million. In 2010 total circulation was almost stable (-1%) while in 2011 circulation has increased again with 6%.

Responsible for the growth are countries like Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru, Austria, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK. In other countries circulation was stable or even dropping (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Macedonia, Russia, USA, Mexico, Chile).

The number of titles dropped in 2010 to 200 and in 2011 again to 190. In 2011 there are free dailies in 56 countries (60 in 2008).


Total circulation of free dailies in 2011 is 36 million, 55% is distributed in Europa, 28% in Asia and 22% in the America’s. WAN-IFRA reports a total free circulation of 24 million – meaning missing some countries (and almost a third of the circulation) as they only research 69 countries instead of the previous 200.

The share of Europe is dropping over the years, as the share of Asia and Latin America is increasing.


Circulation data, hewever, is not officially audited in most non-Western countries. Data (also for paid papers) from most countries in Latin America and Asia should be treated with caution.

Data on Europe, Asia and America were presented in earlier posts yesterday and last week. Some more graphs can be seen here.

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