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Newspaper circulation still on the rise

By Tang Yue  (China Daily)

08:36, July 10, 2012

A senior resident reads a newspaper in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, on Friday. Feng Bo / for China Daily

The number of newspapers and magazines in China last year dropped on a year-on-year basis for the first time in a decade, according to a report released on Monday.

But the total circulation is still on the rise, said the report released by the General Administration of Press and Publication and the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication.

At the end of last year, China had 1,928 newspapers, 11 fewer than the previous year, while the number of magazines and journals fell from 9,884 to 9,849.

"The decline was slight, though I believe it shows the trend of the industry in China," said Fan Weiping, a spokesman for the GAPP.

Unlike in the United States, where the decline in newspaper circulation has a lot to do with the rise of online news services, the change in China is because some newspapers that used to be owned by the government are now required to be financially independent, said Wei Yushan, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication.

"In the past, some newspapers and magazines didn't have many readers and lost money for many years. But they survived with the government's subsidy. Now the reform requires them to be financially independent so the unprofitable ones will be dead," he said.

Despite the closing of some unpopular newspapers and magazines, total circulation kept rising last year.

The total number of newspaper copies sold rose from 45.21 billion to 46.74 billion while the figure for magazines and journals increased from 3.22 billion to 3.29 billion.

Wei said he believes the rising trend will continue for at least five years due to the ongoing urbanization.

"A lot of people in rural areas don't read newspapers but many will when they live in the towns and cities. So there is still great potential for the circulation," Wei said.

"The printed press in developed countries faces tough challenges in the digital era. In China, lots of people still can't afford an iPad or Kindle, so they have to rely on the print edition."

The report also showed that total revenue for the digital publishing industry was 137.79 billion yuan ($21.62 billion) last year, 32.61 billion more than 2010. It was 21.3 billion yuan in 2006.

Digital publishing includes music, reading and game services on mobile phones, online games, e-books, digital news services, online advertising, online cartoons and online music services, as defined by the report.

Meanwhile, total volumes of printed books also reached a record high of 7.71 billion.

"Like anywhere else in the world, the digital publishing industry is growing very fast in China," Wei said.

"But it doesn't necessarily lead to a fall in printed books and newspapers at the moment in a developing country."

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