European newspaper circulation down another 4% amid calls for more innovation

“Long-term structural declines in print circulation continue in mature markets as audiences shift their focus from print to digital” WAN-IFRA Secretary General Larry Kilman told the Zeitung Digital Conference in Berlin this week, foreshadowing the release of WAN-IFRA’s annual World Press Trends report.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | June 5, 2014

According to the report, to be formally launched at the World Newspaper Congress in the Italian city of Torino on Monday, newspaper circulation in Europe declined 4 per cent in 2013 compared with a year earlier. This result reflects a cumulative 22 per cent drop in the past five years.

“Globally, print newspaper circulation has been relatively steady over the last year and, in fact, over the past five years. But that doesn’t really mean much for Europe and for Germany and for similar markets,” Mr Kilman explained.

“It is the Asian markets where print circulation continues to grow. China, Indonesia, Malaysia – it is the emerging economies with new middle classes and low broadband penetration where print is growing.

Kilman cited advertising as the “lifeblood” of newspapers but noted that newspapers’ share of global advertising fell 14 percent in the past decade while the internet’s share rose 17 percent. While this is good news for internet advertising, he reminded the audience that most of the revenue will go to a handful of companies, including Google which takes the majority of it. This means that news websites will have to bridge the gap.

“While digital audiences are experiencing exponential growth and are replacing audiences lost to print – and even increasing them – digital is not keeping pace with lost print revenue. And that’s a good reason for you to be here today, to exchange ideas, learn what others are doing, find inspiration about what can be done so, ultimately, your companies continue to sustain and support democracy,” he said.

It is estimated that newspaper advertising share will continue to shrink at an average of 1 per cent to 2 per cent a year. As a result of this, Mr Kilman believes the focus must remain on reinventing the traditional newspaper business model.

“This is our ultimate role, and our common task. Unless you crack the revenue issue, and provide sufficient funds so that your companies can fulfil their societal role, democracy will inevitably be weakened.”

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