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Most-read newspapers in the world
June 12, 2005 9:16 AM   Subscribe

The world's 100 largest newspapers by circulation Japan and China take 9 of the top 10 spots; Greece enters at #17, the United States at #19. Newspaperindex now also has the list broken down by continent. [An updated top 100 list has been posted here] [via Cynical-C]
posted by mediareport (42 comments total)

 
Er, make that 8 of the top 10 spots. England and Germany are in there, too. Take it with a grain of salt, given the difficulties and dishonesties that plague the circulation business, but still worth a look.
posted by mediareport at 9:17 AM on June 12, 2005


Howay the daily ranger at number 90.
posted by bonaldi at 9:30 AM on June 12, 2005


*Obligatory comment questioning the relevancy of newspapers in the current environment.*
posted by caddis at 9:57 AM on June 12, 2005


bonaldi - daily rhebel, surely?
posted by the cuban at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2005


Disappointing that a cheap tabloid newspaper that caters for the unthinking masses is the UK's most popular paper. Probably says a lot more about our culture than people realise. Likewise with number 90 as it doesn't say much for Scotland..

Also expected the US to feature higher than 19 - any reason?

Social commentary over and it's an interesting list. Thanks mediareport.
posted by Nugget at 10:23 AM on June 12, 2005


"Also expected the US to feature higher than 19 - any reason?"

americans don't (or can't) read?
posted by muppetboy at 10:31 AM on June 12, 2005


Interesting. My question is, what is the population of Japan and what percentage read the Yomiuri Shimbun? With a circulation 10 times that of the US' largest, I'm wondering if there's some monkey business going on here, or maybe my perception of the newsreaders of the world is just skewed. Cool though, thanks!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:42 AM on June 12, 2005


Also expected the US to feature higher than 19 - any reason?

I think it is because the US doesn't really have popular national newspapers.
posted by caddis at 10:51 AM on June 12, 2005


Hmm, actualy China had only two newpapers in the top ten, and japan had 5. I wonder if it's a cultural diffrence... but it could also be that newspapers are considered local news around here.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 AM on June 12, 2005


Now this is interesting.... I guess (judging from the greek newspaper's circulation) this list represents the annual (?) circulation. Then, I think these numbers are disappointing. Yes, I know, TV and Internet as well as the fact that people might be buying more that one newspaper.... I also wonder if Mr Hans Henrik Lichtenberg has sorted out how many of those first 100 newspapers are owned by the same person and who...
posted by carmina at 11:18 AM on June 12, 2005


Considering that the Wall Street Journal is a business-oriented daily popular across the US, it's not too surprising that it's the leading US paper -- all the others are city-specific. USA Today likewise has a nationwide appeal, but I've never known of any individual who subscribes to it. Plenty of US hotels do, since its national market makes it a good "default" choice for business travelers.
posted by alumshubby at 11:22 AM on June 12, 2005


I guess (judging from the greek newspaper's circulation) this list represents the annual (?) circulation. Then, I think these numbers are disappointing.

I think these figures are daily circulation.
posted by the cuban at 11:30 AM on June 12, 2005


*Obligatory comment questioning the relevancy of newspapers in the current environment.*

Obligatory reminder that the death of the newspaper was predicted with the advent of radio and television. The industry reacted well to both, changing its approach and eventually putting on sales.
posted by MrMerlot at 11:31 AM on June 12, 2005


"I guess (judging from the greek newspaper's circulation) this list represents the annual (?) circulation."

This is a daily circulation list. The figures for the UK papers, and especially those for the largest here in Scotland - The Daily Record - are about right for a daily readership.

I'd guess it also depends on the competition in each country and region - Greece only has one entry so it's either popular or there's limited choice.
posted by Nugget at 11:34 AM on June 12, 2005


err, this is odd. From Eleftherotypia's web site its mean daily circulation is 72,000. Second largest greek newspaper (TaNea) 70,000. Third (Ethnos) 55,000. These estimates come from the Greek Newspaper Owners Union (I would guess pretty reliable) for year 2003 --not much yearly difference, I don't think. If you want check this. But it is in greek.
posted by carmina at 11:47 AM on June 12, 2005


The numbers for the greek newspaper are annual numbers. This is in English. Hans Henrik needs to count again...
posted by carmina at 12:03 PM on June 12, 2005


Also expected the US to feature higher than 19 - any reason?

The US doesn't have any general-audience national newspapers. The WSJ is subject-specific, more or less, and all other major papers are locals (even though you can get the NYT and (IIRC) WP nationwide if you really want to).

The closest you might get is USA Today, but I'd bet that a significant proportion of its "circulation" are the that appear outside hotel room doors every morning, as the hubby of alum notes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:08 PM on June 12, 2005


There's also the problem of population numbers, Japanese and Chinese papers have a much larger population to subscribe (saying that most papers are regional), a better statistic would be a ration for circulation to population, in that case the United State and all other first world countries would probably be a lot higher. After all if 90% of a city subscribes to a paper in the US and 30% subscribe to one in China, the Chinese paper will still have a bigget circulation if their their population is 2 million, compared to 200,000 for a US city. Simple manipulation of statistics.
Satyagraha
posted by thebestsophist at 12:09 PM on June 12, 2005


The numbers for Japan seem inflated somehow -- unless for some reason people in Japan tend to read several newspapers a day.
posted by clevershark at 12:23 PM on June 12, 2005


I added up all the numbers for Japan and it comes out to a total circulation of 44,174,796 out of a country of 127,417,244 (via Wikipedia) so it probably just seems inflated because there are so many of them. It's amazing how many people are in that country.
Satyagraha
posted by thebestsophist at 12:59 PM on June 12, 2005


Fascinating link. Surprised to see how low the New York Times and Washington Post are... seem to be level with the UK's Daily Telegraph and Times respectively.

I get the impression those US papers had much bigger staffs though. It could be that profit margins are much higher without the UK newspaper market's tough competition.

Of course, to some extent the Telegraph boosts its figures by giving away lots of free or near-free copies.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:10 PM on June 12, 2005


China had only two newpapers in the top ten, and japan had 5

No, Japan has 6 in the top 10.

Many thanks to the folks who looked into the strange ranking of the Greek paper. Here's another page that lists Eleftherotypia's circ as 28,598 daily and 68,217 Sunday in the Athens area, which means Greece's spot on the list is even more strange than I first thought. I've posted a comment at Hans' site linking to this discussion; we'll see if he responds.

USA Today likewise has a nationwide appeal, but I've never known of any individual who subscribes to it. Plenty of US hotels do, since its national market makes it a good "default" choice for business travelers.

Actually, alumshubby, free papers given away to hotel guests has been a contentious issue for years in the circulation game. Advertisers know that very few of those papers get read, but it's only recently that a few high-profile reports on the practice have forced some major newspapers to stop reporting hotel giveaways as part of normal "circulation." An article last month in the WSJ summarized the declining circ and deceptive practices:

Daily circulation of American newspapers peaked in 1984 and had fallen nearly 13% to 55.2 million copies in 2003, according to the Newspaper Association of America...

In the past year, some newspapers fabricated circulation figures. Hollinger International Inc.'s Chicago Sun-Times, Belo's Dallas Morning News and Tribune's Newsday have all acknowledged that they overstated circulation figures...And many other companies have come under scrutiny for bulking up their circulation with discounted copies that didn't attract high-quality readers. In the wake of these scandals, advertisers have been demanding accountability from publishers. "I want the quality readers proved to me," says Brenda White, who buys newspaper ads for clients of the media-buying agency Starcom, a unit of Paris-based Publicis Groupe.

Now, many publishers are taking fewer shortcuts to boost circulation. Chicago-based Tribune, for instance, is cutting back significantly on the number of discounted copies sold to places such as hotels, hospitals and schools. Scott Smith, president of Tribune's publishing unit, said this number will be down 10% from year-ago levels. Such readers -- who often pay nothing for the paper -- often aren't considered good quality and their actual numbers are impossible to validate. Good-quality readers tend to pay for the newspaper with the intention of reading it.

At the Tribune-owned Orlando Sentinel, those types of daily sales jumped 53% in two years, to nearly 38,000 copies a day. But advertisers were unenthusiastic, so the newspaper pulled back. Take hotel copies, Mr. Smith says: "Are the people staying in those hotels actually going to shop with those advertisers?" The answer in many cases, he says, is no. In February, the Sentinel sent a letter to advertisers saying it was cutting many of the nearly 20,000 papers a day it sent to hotels.

posted by mediareport at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2005


It could be that profit margins are much higher without the UK newspaper market's tough competition.
Bingo! The US newspaper market is actually a sea of local monopolies or oligopolies, which is why papers like the Boston Globe, the New York Times and the Washington Post can afford to be as staid and self-regarding as they traditionally have been: if people don't like it, what serious local alternatives are there?
posted by Goedel at 2:11 PM on June 12, 2005


The fact that USA Today is ranked so much higher than the NY Times is interesting. Reading USA Today is like watching Headline News, performed by the Cartoon Network.
posted by nervousfritz at 2:41 PM on June 12, 2005


Not just the Greek numbers are very odd. The Spanish numbers too. Only one Spanish newspaper (ABC) appears on the list, but according to other sources (and to my own experience) it is actually only the third-biggest general information newspaper in Spain (fourth if we also count the sports daily Marca), considerably behind El País and El Mundo. Moreover, in that list ABC is credited with a daily circulation of some 766000, when in fact it's more like 266000 (no Spanish newspaper has ever had a circulation of anything like three-quarters of a million. Ever).
The list is crap.
posted by Skeptic at 2:53 PM on June 12, 2005


Crap, here are the other sources (in Spanish).
posted by Skeptic at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2005


Er...may I ask where the Sunday papers are? There's no mention of this being only a weekly newspaper list, and yet no Sunday Times et al.
posted by Duug at 3:29 PM on June 12, 2005


if people don't like it, what serious local alternatives are there?
God aye. Just spent a week in chicago and it's shown me the real effects of the cut-throat competition on British journalism. The American papers were corpulent, slow and undisciplined. Boring, tedious headlines -- one splash head read "Base details to be known"! -- stories all over the place, copy allowed to run for as long as it wanted, not for as long as the story deserved.

The other side of that coin, of course, is that papers also have the freedom to try adventurous things without worrying too much about the market impact. Like the NY Times putting an beautiful (and highly saturated) Iraq picture on the front with no real hook, I was impressed by that.
posted by bonaldi at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2005


Hans has posted a reply to my question; he noted that he'd seen the discussion here already and would look into it, and then wrote this:

I am very confused right now. I am sure that I found the figures last week here. I looked at it again and now the greek newspaper is gone!

There are lots of other changes to the list, too, it seems. I'm inclined to believe Hans; it was probably complaints from newspapers involved in the list that led to the edits. The new list includes USA Today at #9 and the WSJ at #20. Skeptic, you'll be relieved to know Spain doesn't make the list. :) Japan still has 6 of the top 10, though.

Thanks again to everyone who helped sort this out. I'll ask Matt and Jessamyn to add the updated list to the original post.
posted by mediareport at 3:42 PM on June 12, 2005


You might want to note that my ex-husband (who hasn't lived in Japan in 38 years) still subscribes to the Asahi Shimbun. And I imagine he is not the only one.

42. New York Times (United States) 1,066,540

Hah! make that 1,066,541! I just started subscribing today. And what a pleasure it is.

I grew up with the L. A. Times. From about age 14 to 42 I rarely missed an issue. Then I moved to Raleigh. The News & Observer is ok, but their "in-depth" reporting has all the depth of a kleenex. Often after I read a story, I am left with more questions then when I started.

One sidetrack comment:

It was interesting to compare the Wedding Announcements. In Raleigh every single wedding announcement is marked by the picture of a twenty-something caucasian bride wearing a single strand of pearls, a long white veil and a designer bridal gown. One look at the page and you realize why so many MacMansions are being built in the triangle are. So how refreshing to see the NY Times wedding pages with all their brides in regular clothes with a groom even! And casual hair! And even non-caucasian types!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:09 PM on June 12, 2005


The fact that USA Today is ranked so much higher than the NY Times is interesting.

Not really -- USA today "sells" a million and a half copies in a market of 300,000,000 people (how many of those are actually bought by people intending to read them, I dunno). The NYT sells a million (million and a half on Sunday) in a market of 15 million people (call it 20 or 25 if you want to count the sorts of people who might be in the NYT's "market" outside of the NYC MSA). By any reasonable standard, the NYT does a lot better. If you could measure readership somehow -- look at how much of each paper actually gets read, and how deeply -- you'd almost certainly find the NYT way on top there too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:29 PM on June 12, 2005


[added update link to FPP at poster's request]
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 PM on June 12, 2005


and then, suddenly, the index (and the post, for that matter) became so much less interesting... so predictable...
posted by carmina at 9:03 PM on June 12, 2005


Could this be that US cities have more local papers? How many Japanese cities have their own papers? Is the market more centralized? Cause every damn city in the US has a daily, an alt weekly, and a couple fringe papers.
posted by NickDouglas at 9:37 PM on June 12, 2005


Thanks, jessamyn. Sorry, carmina, the truth hurts. ;)
posted by mediareport at 10:30 PM on June 12, 2005


I don't find it predictable at all. I'm astonished the top papers are all Japanese, with Yomiuri Shimbun (14,246,000) and Asahi Shimbun (12,326,000) each having more than twice the circulation of the next highest (which is also Japanese); if you'd asked me "What's the paper with the highest circulation in the world?" I'd have guessed Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) -- I mean, there are over a billion Chinese! But I guess literacy isn't as widespread as I thought, or people just aren't in the habit of reading newspapers. And the highest Chinese paper on the list is Canako Xiaoxi, which I've never heard of -- though by googling, I discover it's a typo for Cankao Xiaoxi (Reference News). Hmm, and this page says:
The party's newspapers Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) and Guangming Ribao (Enlightenment Daily), and the People's Liberation Army's Jiefangjun Bao (Liberation Army Daily) continued to have the largest circulation... Cankao Xiaoxi (Reference News), an official news organ that carried foreign news items in Chinese translation, was available to cadres and their families. In 1980 it enjoyed a circulation of 11 million, but, with the subsequent proliferation of other news sources, its circulation dropped to 4 million in 1985, causing the subscription policy to be changed to make it available to all Chinese.
Either the new subscription policy has made a huge difference, or it's another accuracy problem.

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2005


I can't believe (or, am disappointed, at least) that there isn't a Canadian paper in the list. I would have thought the Globe and Mail, with its national circulation, would have been close to 600,000.
posted by Elpoca at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2005


It was interesting to compare the Wedding Announcements. In Raleigh every single wedding announcement is marked by the picture of a twenty-something caucasian bride wearing a single strand of pearls, a long white veil and a designer bridal gown. One look at the page and you realize why so many MacMansions are being built in the triangle are. So how refreshing to see the NY Times wedding pages with all their brides in regular clothes with a groom even! And casual hair! And even non-caucasian types!

It's telling that Dan Neil, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, was fired by the N&O in 1997 (for pissing off an advertiser) and hired by the LA Times, where he won his Pulitzer.

But the NY Times wedding page as anybody's model of egalitarianism is the funniest thing I've heard in a while.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:19 AM on June 13, 2005


Some Canadian numbers... (Set your referrer to google for the full article... stupid, I know, I didn't make the site)

Here's the numbers, anyways:

"The Herald" - 120,473 (Never read it / Can't get it)
"The Globe" [and mail?] - M-F 314,940; Sa 395,516 (yay to dry intellectual stories)
"The Free Press" - M-F 119,526; Su 115,547 (Can't get this one either)
"National Post" - M-F 237,795; Sa 258,500 (If you like AP/Reuters stores you'll love this paper)
"Toronto Star" - M-F 432,388; Sa 640,356; Su 434,359 (Like wine, it's best when you're older)
"The Toronto Sun" - M-F 179,452; Sa 149,445; Su 309,264 (My favourite newspaper)

So, the Toronto Star almost makes it on the list (it does on Saturday). The rest, certainly not.
posted by shepd at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2005


But the NY Times wedding page as anybody's model of egalitarianism is the funniest thing I've heard in a while.

You have looked at it recently, right? You know they have gay couples and everything? It may not be the funkiest wedding page on the planet, but it's come many miles since the stuffy old days of a few years ago. Hell, there have been people I know there, and I assure you I don't know any of the Four Hundred.
posted by languagehat at 11:10 AM on June 13, 2005


That's good! The Toronto Star is my favourite (Canadian) newspaper, and I don't even live in Toronto...

But the Sun?? I didn't know that it was a newspaper. I thought it was just a collection of advertisements....
posted by Elpoca at 11:29 AM on June 13, 2005


Yes, mediareport, you read me right, truth hurts :-)
But, I guess, I shot myself in the foot! Anyway, I believe that it would be extremely (more, LH) revealing to see the relative readership to population, to percapita income, to number of newspapers per country, to foreign readership etc etc etc.
posted by carmina at 5:43 PM on June 13, 2005


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