Newspaper circulations worldwide rose 2.3 per cent in 2006 with Indian sales increasing most with 12.93 per cent, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) said in Cape Town on Monday.
Newspaper sales increased in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America, with North America the only continent to register a decline. Advertising revenues in paid dailies were up 3.77 per cent last year, WAN said.
China, Japan and India account for 60 of the world's 100 best-selling dailies, while the five largest markets for newspapers are China, India, Japan, the US and Germany.
When free dailies are added to the paid newspaper circulation, global circulation increased 4.61 per cent. Free dailies now account for nearly 8 per cent of all global newspaper circulation.
The data from WAN's annual survey of world press trends was released to more than 1,600 publishers, editors and other senior newspaper executives from 109 countries at the 60th World Newspaper Congress and the 14th World Editors' Forum in Cape Town.
"These results are even better than we expected," said Timothy Balding, chief executive officer of Paris-based WAN. "Newspapers are alive and well and exhibiting enormous innovation and energy to maintain their place as the news media of preference for hundreds of millions of people daily."
The trend is defying the rise of the Internet. "As the digital tide gathers strength, it is remarkable that the press in print continues to be the media of preference for the majority of readers," Balding said.
Yet, at the same time, newspapers were "exploiting to the full all the new opportunities provided by the digital distribution channels to increase their audiences", he added.
Rising circulation figures in 2006 took global sales to a new high, with more than 515 million people buying a newspaper every day.
With free dailies included, daily circulation increased to nearly 556 million. Average readership is estimated to be more than 1.4 billion people each day, with most copies read by more than one person.
In Europe, daily newspaper circulation was up overall, with 10 EU countries increasing their circulation, headed by Romania with 25.7 per cent, Austria with 9.43 per cent, and Portugal with 8.95 per cent.
Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovakia also increased sales, with circulation remaining stable in Cyprus.
Another 15 EU countries reported losses. The Slovenian market was hit worst with 18.9 per cent, followed by Latvia with 7.8 per cent and Greece with 4.9 per cent. Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Britain also reported losses.
Elsewhere in Europe, circulation increased in Turkey and Croatia, while declining in Norway and in Switzerland.
In the US, the circulation of dailies fell 1.9 per cent, with most of the decline coming in evening dailies. In Latin America, Brazilian newspaper sales were up 6.5 per cent and Colombian sales increased 3.2 per cent.
In Asia, circulation was up 3.61 per cent over the previous year. Indian sales increased most with 12.93 per cent. Elsewhere in Asia, sales were up in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh and Korea, and down in Taiwan and Japan.
Sales in Australia recorded an increase of 2.95 per cent, while New Zealand newspaper sales were down 1.1 per cent.
In Africa, sales were up 8.24 per cent in South Africa and stable in Nigeria and Kenya.
The Japanese remain the world's greatest newspaper buyers, while Belgians spend the most time reading them - an average of 54 minutes a day - followed by the Chinese, Finns and Brazilians, with 48 minutes each.
Sunday newspaper circulations declined 3.69 per cent, with the US and Britain remaining the largest markets for Sunday papers by far. Circulation for non-daily newspapers rose 7.29 per cent.
Free daily newspapers saw a circulation increase of 55 per cent in one year, with a total of 287 free titles distributing 40.7 million copies a day - most of them in Europe.
The five largest free dailies are Metro in Britain, Leggo in Italy as well as 20 Minutos, Que! and ADN in Spain.