Media and Advertising

Newsstand sales figures for Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou

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In the absence of an authoritative auditing body, real circulation figures for newspapers (and other printed material as well) are hard to come by, but even less-than-reliable statistics can be enlightening at times.

Here we present translations of two reports on newsstand sales prepared by Century China International Media Consultation, which collects data on publications in China's major cities. The first looks at circulation data for Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, and the second takes a closer look at the market for morning papers in Beijing.

The articles here do not explain where Century Chinese obtained its data, and at least one of the pieces seems like it was written to promote the Beijing Times. The results are still interesting, however, though we at Danwei make no claims as to the veracity of the information presented below.

Note that the relatively low placement of Beijing Youth Daily in these articles stems from the fact that a large proportion of its circulation is subscription-based; according to educated guesses from last year, BYD would appear to be in second place for overall circulation.


In Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, the three Chinese cities with the largest economic power, metropolitan newspapers obliquely reflect details about culture and the living conditions of urban residents. Competition is fierce in the city, and the retail market makes clear that for any metropolitan newspaper, it is an important battleground in the struggle for readers. This document examines competition among metropolitan newspapers in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou using data from a Century Chinese investigation into the metropolitan newspaper market of the second half of 2005.

1. Beijing: Beijing Evening News tops the field

From the Century Chinese investigation for this period, we see that the makeup of Beijing's newspaper retail market has not changed much from the first half of the year. Beijing Evening News (北京晚报) remains in first place for sales volume, with Beijing Times (京华时报) again in second. Legal Mirror (法制晚报) has seen its sales rise somewhat, and it is now in third. Beijing Daily Messenger (北京娱乐信报) is fourth, The Beijing News (新京报) is fifth, Beijing Youth Daily (北京青年报) (without the TV news) is sixth, and Beijing Morning Post (北京晨报) is seventh. China Times (华夏时报) has only scattered retail sales, and places last.

Looking at market changes, Beijing Evening News occupies a majority share of the market for Beijing metropolitan newspapers at 55.73%. Its sales are several times to several dozen times greater than other newspapers, and the others are too far behind to catch up. Beijing Times is in second place, and compared with the first half of the year, its sales have fallen a bit but remain essentially stable. Legal Mirror has per-location sales of nearly 30 papers, and it has the swiftest-growing sales of any Beijing metropolitan paper. Beijing Daily Messenger, The Beijing News, Beijing Youth Daily, and Beijing Morning Post all saw sales volume rise somewhat.

Looking at total volume, the sum total of Beijing metropolitan newspapers' average sales per location was slightly less than in the first half of the year. For several periods of Century Chinese data, the sum of average sales volumes has seen a decreasing trend. This may be caused by two reasons. First, more forms and types of media are segmenting the readership. Second, an increase in the number of sales outlets has caused the per-outlet sales to drop.

2. Shanghai: Shanghai Times, Shanghai Morning Post, Xinmin Evening News are the three legs of a tripod

From the Century Chinese data for this period, Shanghai Times (申江服务导报) placed first with a 23.62% market share. Shanghai Morning Post (新闻晨报) is little different, following close behind with 23.36% of the market. In the first half of the year, Shanghai Morning Post topped Shanghai Times. In third place was Xinmin Evening News (新民晚报) had 21.91% of the market. The top three papers together held 70% of Shanghai's metropolitan newspaper market. The remaining papers lacked competitiveness. This shows that in the retail circulation market for Shanghai's metropolitan newspapers, Shanghai Morning Post, Xinmin Evening News and Shanghai Times had strong positions as three pillars of the sector, with intense competition among them. The three papers have competitive advantages over the rest of Shanghai's papers.

3. Guangzhou: Guangzhou Daily wins out

Comparing data from the second half of 2005 with the first half, Guangzhou's newspaper sector has some of the most intense competition and is one of the the most mature areas in the country. But since total retail numbers show a rising trend, the market is not yet saturated, and circulation for all papers has further room to grow.

Compared with the first half of 2005, Guangzhou's metropolitan newspapers' total sales increased somewhat, but the general makeup of retail did not change. Guangzhou Daily (广州日报)remained at the top in terms of total sales. According to sales figures for this period, in the retail market, Guangzhou Daily took a 40% share of the market for metropolitan newspapers. Guangzhou Daily's sales are distinctly better than Yangcheng Evening News (羊城晚报) and Southern Metropolitan Daily (南方都市报), and circulation, influence, and coverage are all in leading positions. Yangcheng Evening News and Southern Metropolitan Daily occupy second and third positions, respectively.

The latest figures from Century Chinese show average location sales for Guangzhou Daily stand at 82.27 papers, for Yangcheng Evening News, 49.43 papers, and for Southern Metropolitan Daily, 33.8 papers. Compared to the first half of 2005, Guangzhou Daily has increased its average by roughly 6 papers, Yangcheng Evening News by roughly 5 papers, and Southern Metropolitan Daily by roughly 2 papers, allowing each paper to solidify its position. New Express (新快报) and Information Times (信息时报) placed fourth and fifth, with New Express's sales passing Information Times this time. Southern Daily (南方日报) placed sixth in Guangzhou, with average location sales of roughly 7 papers. From this, we can see that the stable and mature makeup of Guangzhou's metropolitan paper market has not changed. Guangzhou Daily remains at the top, New Express passed Information Times, and Yangcheng Evening News and Southern Metropolitan Daily keep making headway in the chase, increasing competitive pressure among the big three newspaper publishing groups.


In the second half of 2005, retail sales of morning newspapers in Beijing developed in the following ways: retail sales volume increased slightly, and Beijing Times, with a 61.21% market share, continued to lead the morning papers; Beijing Daily Messenger placed second, trying to catch up. While many papers have widespread coverage but poor sales, Beijing Times has both widespread coverage and good sales. We can see from this that Beijing's morning paper sales are concentrated in upper-class neighborhoods, commercial districts, and business districts, but the market is saturated. High-volume media has even more development potential than last year. Below, we discuss several areas.

1. Sales volume and changes

Compared to evening papers, some Beijing papers circulate in the early or midmorning. There are six of these papers: Beijing Morning Post (北京晨报), Beijing Times (京华时报), Beijing Youth Daily (北京青年报), Beijing Daily Messenger (北京娱乐信报), The Beijing News (新京报), and China Times (华夏时报) [note: the analysis ignores The First (竞报)]; we will look at these papers to examine the market for retail sales and coverage of morning papers in Beijing.

In the Beijing morning paper market, Beijing Times has a lock on a large section of the market. It sells an average of 44.04 papers per sales location, several times greater than any other morning paper. Beijing Daily Messenger is in second place with location sales of 13.75 papers. The Beijing News is in third with location sales of 6.44 papers . Beijing Youth Daily and Beijing Morning Post each sell roughly 3 papers per location (note: average sales for the Beijing Youth Daily are for copies not including the TV paper).

Compared with the previous six months, the overall morning paper market in Beijing is relatively stable. Beijing Times sales have hardly changed, and it maintains a large lead over the second-placed paper. Other papers' sales have risen or fallen slightly, but in general there has been no change.

2. Market share

Looking at retail market share, Beijing Times has over 60% of the market; at 61.21%, it approaches two-thirds. Beijing Daily Messenger has a 19.11% market share, or one fifth. The Beijing Times, Beijing Youth Daily, and Beijing Morning Post divide up the rest of the market among them. Compared with the previous time period, Beijing Times has lost a bit of market share, but its hold on the morning paper market hasn't changed. Sales of other papers have seen some small movement, but the overall effect isn't large. Trends over the past few years indicate that Beijing Times has a stable controlling position in the Beijing morning paper market, and from retail conditions, it is approaching maturity.

3. Sales and coverage rates

The retail sales differences among morning papers in Beijing is evident in the distinguishing characteristics of the papers' retail sales. Beijing Times has high sales, and its sale and coverage rates are higher than other media. According to the data for this period, Beijing Times had a 100% coverage rater in all Beijing districts; that is, it is sold across all of Beijing. It's sales rate is 99.38%, giving it competitive advantages of high coverage and a high sales rate. Comparatively, Beijing Daily Messenger, The Beijing News, Beijing Youth Daily, and Beijing Morning Post are disadvantaged by a relatively low sales rate. In particular, Beijing Youth Daily, Beijing Morning Post, and China Times have sales rates below the average for the six papers; the three of them have a sales rate of less than 80%.

4. Regional sales conditions

Regional sales comparison is divided into comparison by administrative district and comparison by area characteristics. Comparing the sales volume of the city papers in each region is beneficial to an analysis of where readers are located and concentrated. Looking at area characteristics, Beijing Times's sales in each type of region are higher than the other papers, and especially in high-tech, residential, and transportation hub areas. Beijing Times has more than 60% of the morning paper sales volume in each of Beijing's eight administrative districts.

Of all morning papers, Beijing Times commands a large proportion of sales in commercial, university, and business districts. Beijing Daily Messenger has a large amount of sales in industrial and high-class residential areas. The Beijing News has a large amount of sales in high-class residential, business, and commercial areas. Beijing Youth Daily has a large amount of sales in university and high-class residential areas. Beijing Morning Post has a large amount of sales in industrial areas. China Times also has a large amount of sales in commercial areas. Overall, Beijing's morning paper sales are concentrated in high-class residential, areas, and commercial and business areas. Beijing Times and Beijing Youth Daily have a certain portion of their sales in university areas, Beijing Daily Messenger and The Beijing News are have a rather large inclination toward high-class residential areas, and Beijing Morning Post and Beijing Daily Messenger have good sales in industrial areas.

5. Market Saturation

- Location saturation rate: Number of sales locations that sell out of a particular issue as a proportion of total sales locations.
- Location remainder rate: Number of sales locations that have issues remaining as a proportion of total sales locations.
- Coverage potential rate: Number of sales locations with market potential as a proportion of total sales locations.

Analysis of the degree of retail outlet saturation uses newsstands as the object of investigation and examines the rate of saturation among newsstands. Through analysis of the location saturation rate, the location remainder rate, and the coverage potential rate, we can come to understand the saturation conditions among retail outlets over this period.

In retail channels, when a paper finishes selling one issue, there are three possible situations: remainders (those left over), market potential (sold out, with remaining demand), and saturation (sold out with no potential). Strictly speaking, it is very rare for a situation to occur in which all papers are sold but there is no demand remaining. Alongside basic sales numbers and duration of sales, the market potential and remainders are often ignored to some extent. The idea behind looking at these three indicators is that they reflect the conditions of the retail market, and test whether circulation strategies influence the overall market.

From the data, Beijing's morning paper market is not saturated, and Beijing's large-selling papers still have a large growth potential. Beijing Times occupies the top position for sales, and its coverage potential rate is over 20%; that is, roughly one fifth of its locations have market potential. In addition, the location saturation rate of the Beijing Times is fairly high, with remainders very low. Its readership is stable, and from a long-term standpoint, there is little possibility for its sales to drop. The other five papers all have problems with remainder rates that are too high, causing problems with average sales numbers. This will also have an appearance in future market potential as well as in the confidence of newsstand owners.

6. Confidence potential analysis

Market potential can be seen as an opportunity for development; looking at the average potential of each paper, for those with potential there is the implication of room for growth. The size of the potential shows opportunities for growth as well as danger of remainders. At the same time, the enthusiasm and confidence of retail outlets during the sales process is greatly affected by the circulation strategy, sales rate, and sales volume of a particular paper. The confidence of a newsstand owner in a paper is an important measurement of whether that paper has opportunities for development.

Looking at average market potential, Beijing Times is high in both market potential and newsstand confidence, and is competitively advantaged. Newsstand owners also have a degree of confidence in Beijing Daily Messenger and The Beijing News, but the newsstand potential exhibited here is limited. Overall, the potential and opportunity for growth for Beijing Times is much greater.

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