World Press Trends: Print and digital together increasing newspaper audiences

Print and digital combined are increasing audiences for newspapers globally, but digital revenues are not keeping pace, posing a risk for newspaper businesses and the societies they serve, the annual World Press Trends survey released Monday by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) reveals.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | June 9, 2014

(Note: A larger, interactive version of the graphic shown at the left is available here.)

“Unless we crack the revenue issue, and provide sufficient funds so that newspapers can fulfill their societal role, democracy will inevitably be weakened,” WAN-IFRA Secretary General Larry Kilman tells the 66th World Newspaper Congress in Torino.

“The role that newspapers play in society cannot be underestimated, and has never been more crucial,” he says. “If newspaper companies cannot produce sufficient revenues from digital, if they cannot produce exciting, engaging offerings for both readers and advertisers, they are destined to offer mediocre products with nothing to differentiate them from the mass of faux news. Finding the sustainable business models for digital news media is not only important for your businesses, but for the future health of debate in democratic society.”

The survey reveals:

  • Print circulation increased 2 per cent globally in 2013 from a year earlier but declined by 2 per cent over five years. Around 2.5 billion people around the world read newspapers in print and 800 million on digital platforms.
  • Print circulation continues to rise in countries with a growing middle class and relatively low broadband penetration, but long-term structural declines in print circulation continue in mature markets as audiences shift their focus from print to digital. Circulation rose 1.45 per cent in Asia in 2013 from a year earlier and 2.56 per cent in Latin America; it fell 5.29 per cent in North America, 9.94 per cent in Australia and Oceania, 5.20 percent in Europe and 1 per cent in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Over five years, newspaper circulation rose 6.67 per cent in Asia, 6.26 per cent in Latin America and 7.5 per cent in the Middle East and Africa; it fell 10.25 per cent in North America; 19.59 per cent in Australia and Oceania; and 23.02 per cent in Europe.
  • Print advertising world-wide declined 6 per cent in 2013 from a year earlier and declined 13 per cent over five years. Digital advertising for newspapers increased 11 per cent in 2013 and 47 per cent over five years, but remains a relatively small part of overall internet advertising. Much of internet advertising revenue goes to only a handful of companies, and most of it goes to Google.
  • Print newspaper advertising increased 3.9 per cent in Latin America in 2013 compared with a year earlier, but fell in all other regions: 3.2 percent in Asia and the Pacific, 8.7 percent in North America, 8.2 per cent in Europe; and 1.8 per cent in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Over five years, print newspaper advertising increased 3.3 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, 49.9 per cent in Latin America. It declined 29.6 per cent in North America, 17.9 per cent in Europe, and 21.1 percent in the Middle East and Africa.
  • While digital advertising continues to grow, it still represents a small part of overall newspaper revenue. Globally, 93 per cent of all newspaper revenues continue to come from print.
  • Global newspaper publishing revenues from print circulation and advertising were stable year-on-year at US $163bn in 2013. But that figure is down from US $187bn in 2008.
  • Paid digital circulation increased 60 per cent last year and rose more than 2,000 per cent over the last five years, albeit from a very low starting point.

“There is growing understanding by the public that you get what you pay for, and an increasing willingness to pay for newspaper content on digital platforms,” says Kilman. “With all the free offerings out there, people are still willing to pay for news that is professionally written and edited, that is independent, entertaining and engaging. In short – what newspapers have offered for 400 years, and continue to offer, on emerging and existing platforms, no matter how it is delivered.”

While newspapers attract a significant portion of the total internet audience, the biggest challenge for publishers continues to be how to increase the engagement of audiences on digital platforms. While 46 per cent of the digital population visits newspaper websites, newspapers are a small part of total internet consumption, representing only 6 per cent of total visits, 0.8 per cent of pages viewed and 1.1 per cent of total time spent on digital platforms.

Newspapers have begun working to increase these measures of engagement, and are doing so in a variety of ways, the survey found:

  • By increasing their social media presence to interact with audiences and building their brands;
  • By promoting upcoming material and providing incentives through database marketing;
  • By improving site navigation and restructuring pages based on audience interest, to encourage increasing page visits; and
  • By developing audience knowledge based on past visits to enhance their experience and increase the time they spend.

“While there is much to be done, the good news is, there is evidence that progress is being made,” says Kilman. “And it is essential for our industry to continue to come together to exchange ideas, learn what others are doing, find inspiration about what can be done so, ultimately, we can continue to provide the accurate and credible news and information that citizens need, and have long come to expect from us, to make informed decisions in democratic society.

“This is the ultimate goal, and the challenge,” he says. “Your successes – and your failures – will not only have an impact on your businesses today, but are also likely to have a profound impact on your children, on the shape of society in the future.”

The survey also found:

  • Television continues to maintain the largest share of global advertising revenues, with 40.1 per cent, followed by internet with 20.7 per cent, newspapers with 16.9 per cent, magazines with 7.9 per cent, outdoor with 7 per cent, radio with 6.9 per cent, and cinema with 0.5 per cent.
  • The newspaper industry’s value – US$ 163bn annually from circulation sales and advertising – compares with US$ 102bn book publishing revenues, US$ 87bn film revenues, and US$ 50bn music revenues.
  • Regionally, 36 per cent of newspapers’ market value is in Asia, 34 per cent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, 21 per cent in North America and 9 per cent in Latin America.
  • While single copy newspaper sales have fallen 26 per cent since 2008, subscription sales have fallen only 8 per cent, indicating higher loyalty and stronger customer relationships with subscribers.


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