Bangladesh newspaper sales slump amid coronavirus fears

  • Faysal Atik, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-03-26 13:15:15 BdST

Newspaper sales have slumped in Dhaka amid the coronavirus outbreak with offices shut and readers avoiding it fearing infections.

The demand for newspapers has decreased gradually over the past 15 days. Sales dropped by about 60 percent on Tuesday in comparison to the daily sales in the period before March 8 when Bangladesh confirmed the first coronavirus case, according to the hawkers’ union.

With the virus fears running deep, some local newspapers outside Dhaka have stopped printing over the past few days.

The Newspaper Owners Association of Bangladesh, or NOAB, issued a notice in an attempt to dispel fears over virus transmission by newspaper. NOAB insists that newspapers are safe to touch.

But people are trying to avoid touching banknotes, mobile handsets, used helmets on ride-sharing motorbikes and newspapers as a safety precaution.

Most of the Dhaka residents, now marooned by the virus outbreak, say they are relying on online news to keep themselves updated.

Bangladesh reported its first COVID-19 patient on Mar 8. Since then, people began to practise social distancing to prevent the infection from spreading.

The number of newspaper subscribers has dropped gradually since the first coronavirus patient was detected in the country, Mobarak Hossain Tutul, general manager of Dhaka Sangbadpatra Hawkers Bohumukhi Samabay Samity, told bdnews24.com.

“There has been a drastic slump over the past four days. We can assume that the sales in Dhaka have halved in the past 15 days.”

“Many people have left Dhaka, which has also led to the decreasing demand for newspapers. We’re planning to hold a meeting with the NOAB leaders,” said another leader of the hawkers’ union.

Managers of some newspapers privately shared details of the dropping demand for newspapers. None of them wanted to be named for this story citing the sensitivity of the issue.

Some people believe that the virus can spread through newspapers or banknotes, said Tutul. The hawkers have taken some measures to ensure the safety of the readers, subscribers and hawkers, he said.

“We provided our hawkers with gloves and hand sanitisers for free. We made them aware of the infection and preventive measures. They are also being responsible and are performing their duties by maintaining safety precautions.”

Bangladesh has more than 2.5 million subscribers for Bangla and English newspapers, according to the hawkers’ union.

“When I went to deliver morning newspapers over the last few days, people just said they want to suspend subscriptions for the time being. Some of them have left Dhaka. It is doubtful whether even 30 percent of the subscribers are in Dhaka now,” said a newspaper hawker in Mirpur’s Pirerbag.

“Earlier, the offices were open. There were people everywhere in Mirpur and many used to buy newspapers. Now the streets are deserted. Therefore, the sales have dropped,” said a newspaper agent at Mirpur 10.

The Prothom Alo, Bangladesh Pratidin, Jugantor, Amader Somoy, Kaler Kantho, Samakal and Ittefaq are among the most circulated Bangla-language dailies. The Daily Star tops the list of English-language newspapers.

All newspapers experienced a slump in sales, according to the hawkers’ union.

Newspapers are distributed from 63 centres in Dhaka. At least 50,000 people are engaged in distributing newspapers across the Dhaka city.