Sri Lanka newspaper circulation falls for second straight year

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s newspaper circulation has fallen for the second straight year in 2018, with diminishing readership across all three languages, central bank data showed.

Annual circiulation of daily national newspapers fell to 368 million in 2018, down from 398.7 million a year earlier, after reaching a historical peak of 411.8 million in 2016.

Weekly newspaper circulation fell to 113.3 million in 2018 after peaking at 136.3 million in 2017.

The central bank had collected circulation data from newspaper publishers and the Mass Media Ministry.

Critics have alleged publishers are overstating circulation data to boost advertisement revenues.

The highest fall was among Sinhala newspapers, with annual circulation of daily publications falling 11.2 percent to 217.6 million and weekly copies falling 20.3 percent to 113.3 million.

Tamil daily newspaper circulation fell marginally by 0.5 percent to 59.96 million and weeklies fell 1.8 percent to 19.1 million copies.

English daily newspaper circulation fell 3 percent to 90.6 million and weekly distribution fell 2.7 percent to 24.7 million copies.

The daily newspaper copies per thousand persons distributed fell to 54 in 2018 from 59 a year earlier, while 101 copies were sold in weekly publications, down from 122.

Newspaper circiulation had grown at an annual rate of 14 percent for seven years up to 2016, after recording the only fall in the past 20 years in 2008.

Sri Lanka has followed a similar trend to India, the world’s largest newspaper consumer, where circulation continued to grow and peaked at 610.2 million per day in 2015/16 (year ending in March), according to the Office of Registrar of Newspapers for India data.

Daily newspaper circulation in India then fell to 488.1 million copies in 2016/17 and 430 million in 2017/18.

Newspaper circulation in many other countries have been falling over the past decades with a higher consumption of online media and cable news.

In Japan, another large newspaper consumer, circulation has fallen from 53 million copies daily (morning and evening editions were counted as one)  in 2004 to 39.9 million copies in 2018, according to the Japan Newspaper Association.

In the US, newspaper readership has been dwindling since 1990 according to the Pew Research Centre, with circulation in 2018 falling to the same levels as 1940.

 (Colombo/Aug08/2019)