Sreenath Sreenivasan, writing in SAJA forum, draws attention to new statistics on newspaper circulations in India, released by Newswatch.in, a media watchdog organization.
The results make a fascinating read and are a wake-up call to anyone who, like me, has a lot more contact with the English media in India than with vernacular newspapers.
The Times of India is the country’s largest circulation English daily (13 million) and yet there are newspapers in five vernacular languages whose readership figures demolish that of the Times. Furthermore, the English dailies’ circulations have tended to contract slightly since last year while over the same period the Hindi dailies have made gains on the order of 1 to 3 million additional readers.
In Hindi, the top paper, Dainik Jagran, has a circulation of 56 million and the second place paper, Dainik Bhaskar, is read by 34 million people. Indeed, all five of the Hindi papers listed by newswatch.in have higher circulations than any English paper.
In Bengali, Ananda Bazar Patrika has a circulation of 15 million (while the local English-language paper, the Kolkata-based Telegraph, has a circulation of only 3 million).
Additionally, papers in Marathi, Tamil and Telegu have a higher circulation than the Times and if we lower the standard of comparison to the second-highest circulation English daily, Hindustan Times, which has 6 million readers, then there are more widely read papers in Gujarati, Kannada and Malayalam.
Of course these general statistics cannot answer some of the most interesting questions we might ask, such as whether the Hindi papers are read much outside the “Hindi belt” of north-central India or whether the English papers, smaller circulation figures notwithstanding, are actually more influential than any of the vernacular papers. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that it is indeed the case that the elite read English papers, and yet the statistics indicate that Hindi papers are rapidly expanding while three of the five English papers listed are slowly losing readers.
In any case, since the total readership of the top five Hindi papers is 160 million compared to 31 million for the top five English papers—which is a staggering difference, it looks like I should add Dainik Jagran to my daily media overload.