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What is newsprint?

Newsprint is a low-cost, non-filmable paper composed primarily of wood pulp and most commonly used for printing newspapers and other publications and advertising material.

Invented in 1844 by Charles Fenerty of Nova Scotia, Canada, it usually has a whitish tint and a distinctive feel.

It is designed for use on printing presses that employ a long web of paper (web offset, letterpress and flexo) rather than individual sheets of paper.

What are the advantages of newsprint?

Newsprint is preferred by publishers and printers because it is relatively inexpensive (compared to the grades of paper used for glossy magazines and sales brochures), is durable (to run through modern high-speed presses), and can accept four-color printing at grades that meet the needs of typical newspapers.

As a disadvantage, it is a paper that is not suitable for any type of project, due to its low quality compared to other types of paper.

Use of newsprint

Rolls of newsprint for printing.

The paper web is placed in the printer, in the form of a paper roll, from a paper mill (leftover newsprint can also be cut into individual sheets by a processor for use in a variety of other applications, such as wrapping or commercial printing). World demand for newsprint in 2006 totaled about 37.2 million metric tons, according to the Montreal-based Pulp & Paper Products Council (PPPC). This was 1.6% less than in 2000. Between 2000 and 2006, the biggest changes occurred in Asia, where newsprint demand grew by 20%, and in North America, where demand fell by 25%. Demand in China nearly doubled during the period, to about 3.2 million metric tons.

About 35% of global newsprint use in 2006 was in Asia, while about 26% was in North America and about 25% in Western Europe. Latin America and Eastern Europe each accounted for about 5% of global demand in 2006, according to the PPPC, with Oceania and Africa accounting for a smaller share.

One of the main factors reducing newsprint demand in North America has been the decline in newspaper readership in many sectors of the population – particularly among young adults – along with increasing competition from the Internet and other media for advertising business. According to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), a U.S. newspaper trade group, average daily circulation in the United States on a typical weekday was 52.3 million (53.2 million on Sundays), down from 62.5 million in 1986 (58.9 million on Sundays) and 57.0 million in 1996 (60.8 million on Sundays). According to the NAA, daily advertising revenues (not adjusted for inflation) reached an all-time high in 2000, and by 2007 had fallen by 13%. Newsprint demand has also been affected by newspaper publishers’ attempts to reduce marginal printing costs through various conservation measures designed to reduce newsprint usage.

While demand has trended downward in North America in recent years, the rapid economic expansion of Asian countries such as China and India has greatly benefited print media and thus their newsprint suppliers. According to the World Association of Newspapers, in 2007 Asia was home to 74 of the 100 largest circulation newspapers in the world. With the entry of millions of Chinese and Indians into the ranks of the disposable income earners, newspapers have gained readership along with other media.

Newsprint is used worldwide for printing newspapers, brochures and other printed materials for mass distribution. In the United States, about 80% of all newsprint consumed is purchased by newspaper publishers, according to PPPC. In most other regions, newspapers also use a large majority of the total demand.

In North America, a newspaper publisher buys newsprint and ships it from the mill to the publisher’s printing room(s), where it is used to print the main body of the newspaper (the so-called pull sections). The newspaper publisher may also be contracted by outside companies, such as advertisers or publishers of weekly newspapers or other dailies, to produce printed products for those companies using their presses. In these cases, the press owner may also purchase newsprint from the mill for these print-on-demand jobs.

For the 20% of demand that is not purchased by a newspaper, the most common end uses include the printing of weekly newspapers, advertising brochures and other printed products, usually by a commercial printer, a company whose business consists largely of printing products for other companies that use its presses. In this case, the newsprint may be purchased by the printer on behalf of an advertiser or a publisher of weekly newspapers, or it may be purchased by the customer and then ordered to be shipped to the printer’s location.

Paperboard and the environment

There are upper limits on the percentage of the world’s newsprint that can be made from recycled fiber. For example, some of the fiber that enters a recycled pulp mill is lost in the pulping process, due to inefficiencies inherent in the process.

According to the website of the UK branch of Friends of the Earth, wood fiber can typically only be recycled up to five times due to damage to the fiber.

Therefore, unless the amount of newsprint used each year worldwide decreases by the amount of fiber lost, a certain amount of new (virgin) fiber is needed each year worldwide, even though individual newsprint mills may use 100% recycled fiber.

Many mills blend fresh fibers with recycled fibers to promote sustainability.

Which products are typically printed on newsprint?

Newspapers, typical newsprint example.

As you might guess, this type of paper is used for mass-produced products which will have a very short shelf life, such as a newspaper, magazines, brochures, non-essential documents, etc.

Frequently asked questions about newsprint

Can newsprint be used in a traditional printer

Yes, although adjustments have to be made to the printer’s ink levels, as too much ink will completely ruin the printout.

Where to buy newsprint?

Newsprint foil block.

This type of paper is quite affordable and easily available, you can buy newsprint over the internet from stores like Amazon.

If you want to learn about different types of papers used in printing, take a look at our section on paper types where we detail the characteristics of each one, in which products they are used, their advantages and disadvantages, among many other interesting details.

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