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Newspaper circulation on rise, just not in U.S.

/ Source: The Associated Press

Global newspaper circulation is rising, buoyed by demand in Asia and South America — belying predictions of the demise of print journalism, officials said Monday at the start of an international newspaper conference.

Circulation of paid newspapers rose 2.6 percent worldwide in 2007, with the biggest jump in India and China. China is the world's largest market for newspapers with 107 million copies sold daily, while India trails closely behind at 99 million, according to a report by the World Association of Newspapers.

The increased circulation in India and other Asian countries was due to increasing literacy, more free time and greater income, said Larry Kilman, a spokesman for the association.

However, readership continued to slip in the U.S. and Europe, where traditional dailies face stiff competition from free newspapers and digital media, the study showed.

Officials said the findings were cause for a degree of optimism about the industry.

"They say newspapers and print are dead. Well, I just don't see it," the association's president, Timothy Balding, told more than 1,800 publishers, editors and other senior newspapers executives at the three-day conference.

The strong sales in Asia, which is home to 74 of the world's 100 best-selling dailies, contrasted starkly with declining newspaper readership in the West.

Last year, circulation fell 3 percent in the United States and 1.9 percent in Europe, the report showed; in the past five years, circulation was down 8 percent in the U.S.

Advertising followed a similar trend. Newspaper advertising revenue rose in all regions except the United States, where it fell 3 percent in 2007, the report said.

Meanwhile, Internet advertising revenue worldwide was up 32 percent, showing the rapid growth of online media.

Research presented at the conference also indicated an accelerating shift from print to online media, and that editors are increasingly aware of the need to develop multimedia platforms in order to reach new audiences.

At a panel discussion, Associated Press Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explained AP's new model for news delivery.

Called "1-2-3 filing," it starts with a news alert headline for breaking news, followed by a short present-tense story predominantly for the Web and broadcasters. The third step is to add details and format stories in ways most appropriate for different news platforms.

"I can't emphasize to you the importance of present tense both in the newsroom and for the end user. It's very much about news that is happening. It gives the news a sense of immediacy," Carroll said. "The 3 then can become any number of things: a longer story, a multimedia presentation or nothing at all."

A study commissioned by the AP showed that young adults have profoundly different news consumption patterns from previous generations.

"People don't walk out to the driveway to collect their newspaper. They open their e-mail," Jim Kennedy, AP's director of strategic planning, said in presenting the study.

The research project, carried out by the Context-Based Research Group, also showed young adults experience news fatigue from being inundated by facts and updates and have trouble accessing in-depth stories.

A worldwide survey of 704 newspaper editors by Zogby International and Reuters showed 44 percent believed most people would be reading their news online in 10 years. That was up from 41 percent in a similar study last year.

Balding said a survey of Nordic newspaper editors suggested they see free newspapers as their main competitors, followed by the Internet. Free dailies account for nearly 7 percent of global newspaper circulation and 23 percent of circulation in Europe, the report said.

Earlier Monday, the newspaper association gave its annual Golden Pen of Freedom award to Chinese journalist Li Changqing, who was released in February after two years in prison for reporting on an outbreak of dengue fever.

Li could not travel to Sweden to accept the award because he was unable to obtain a passport, WAN said. Li Jianhong, an exiled Chinese writer, accepted the award on the winner's behalf.

"In China, being a journalist is full of risks," Li Changqing said in an acceptance speech read by Li Jianhong.

It was the second consecutive year that the prize went to a Chinese journalist, underscoring China's continuing harsh press restrictions despite a flourishing economy and rapid social change.

The 2007 award went to Shi Tao, who was serving a 10-year-sentence after e-mailing the contents of a government propaganda circular to a human rights forum in the United States.

"Despite the promises it made in its successful Olympic bid to improve conditions for journalists, China has continued its repressive policies," World Editors Forum President George Brock said in presenting this year's award.

He said 30 journalists and 50 cyber-dissidents are now in Chinese jails and reiterated calls for their release.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf opened the congress saying a free press was "crucial to the development of democracy" but cautioned that it also must be exercised with responsibility.