US boom facts are cold comfort to UK

Independent News and Media chief operating officer Gavin O’Reilly’s regular tub-thumping defences of the newspaper industry have taken on an almost menacing tone. As president of the World Association of Newspapers he warned the authors of the brokerage reports which state that newspapers are soon to be ‘some relic of the past’that they are making a ‘profound mistake”.

Behind the rhetoric at this year’s World Newspapers Congress in Gothenberg there were an avalanche of facts and figures to back up the claims that, globally at least, newspapers are booming: Turnover totalling $190bn, and total daily newspaper circulation (including frees) at a new high of 573 million.

All this will provide slender comfort for journalists working in the UK, where both profits and print circulations are largely on the slide. But the WAN report also showed that even in the US – where print circulations are under most pressure – readership, helped by online, grew eight per cent in 2007.

And this is no doubt also true in the UK, where hundreds of newspapers and magazines are reaching far more readers than they ever did before, thanks to the internet.

In terms of readership, UK newspapers are having a boom the likes of which many have never have seen before. According to the latest figures from web metrics company Nielsen, the five major UK national newspaper online operations are currently growing at between 20 per cent and 92 per cent year on year.

Despite the economic gloom surrounding not just the media, but all of the UK economy at present, journalism is standing up well to the challenge. As O’Reilly puts it: ‘Our industry is extremely well-positioned to weather the storm that is media fragmentation, guaranteeing as we do sizeable, reliable and relatively stable audiences”.

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