Although market shares of free newspapers are growing in almost every newspaper market, the impact on paid circulation is yet unclear.
Research from Scarborough and the New York Times on US newspaper readership revealed that free dailies have a minimal impact on reading habits in the US. In Chicago less than 10% of the readers of a free paper also read a paid one, in New York and Dallas this was between 20 and 30%; in Boston, however, it was almost 40%. However, according to a amNew York research, 62% of their readers dont buy paid newspapers. What was that saying again? Lies, damned lies and statistics?. European data also points in another direction. A French 20 Minutes research (2002) claims that 63% of their readers dont read a paid newspaper. According to a Dutch research (2000) half of the readers of free papers dont read a paid one. Perhaps circulation is a more consistent measure. In the US, free papers have only 4% of the newspaper market, but in many European countries free dailies have a much higher share. Iceland has an estimated share of free dailies of 72% in 2005; Spain (46%), Italy (31%), Denmark and Portugal (both 30%) follow. Only three countries report market shares of less than 10%: Finland, the UK, and Austria. (for more data check the latest newsletter on the free daily newspaper website. Although paid circulation is dropping in almost every European market, the relation between paid and free circulation is not clear. Both Germany and the UK have seen huge drops in circulation (14 and 16% since 1995); but free papers are absent in Germany and have only a 7% market share in the UK; in Spain and Italy, countries with impressive market shares of free papers, paid circulation has stayed stable or dropped only very little. The decrease in circulation of paid newspapers in almost every country started before the introduction of free papers; it is, however, not unlikely that free dailies have accelerated the development. In the Americas the picture is less consistent, for some countries (Mexico, Ecuador, Chile) no reliable year-on-year figures on paid circulation are available. In Canada the share of free papers increased from 7% in 2000 to 20% in 2005; in Argentina 11% of the circulation is free, although this was much higher in 2000 (35%). In the US the share rose slowly from 1% in 2001 to 4% in 2005. In Australia 5% of the circulation is free, in Singapore 26% (53% in 2003). For other countries data on paid circulation are not fully available, although sometimes high circulation figures are reported for free papers, for instance in Korea (2,000,000) and Hong Kong (728,000). Source: Free Daily Newspapers