Though print and digital newspapers continue to increase readership, digital revenues have not kept pace, posing a risk for newspapers and the societies they serve, a recent survey found.
The annual World Press Trends survey, released on June 9 by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) was presented to 1,000 publishers, chief editors and other senior newspaper executives at the 66th World Newspaper Congress, 21st World Editors Forum and 24th World Advertising Forum in Turin, Italy.
“Unless we crack the revenue issue, and provide sufficient funds so that newspapers can fulfill their social role, democracy will inevitably be weakened,” said Larry Kilman, WAN-IFRA general secretary.
“If newspaper companies cannot produce sufficient digital revenues, 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.”
According to the survey, 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 percent of the digital population visits newspaper websites, newspapers are a small part of total internet consumption, representing only 6 percent of total visits, 0.8 percent of pages viewed and 1.1 percent of total time spent on digital platforms, the suvey found.
“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,” Kilman said.
The annual survey revealed that print circulation had increased more than two percent globally in 2013 from a year earlier but declined by two percent 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 that have 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, according to the survey that included data from more than 70 countries, accounting for more than 90 percent of the global industry’s value.
Over five years, newspaper circulation rose +6.67 percent in Asia, +6.26 percent in Latin America and +7.5 percent in the Middle East and Africa; it fell -10.25 percent in North America; -19.59 percent in Australia and Oceania; and -23.02 percent in Europe.
Print advertising world-wide declined -6 percent in 2013 from a year earlier and declined -13 percent over five years. Digital advertising for newspapers increased +11 percent in 2013 and +47 percent over five years, but remains a relatively small part of overall internet advertising.
The survey found much of internet advertising revenue goes to only a handful of companies--particularly Google.
While digital advertising continues to grow, it still represents a small part of overall newspaper revenue. Globally, 93 percent 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$163 billion in 2013. But that figure is down from US$187 billion in 2008.
Paid digital circulation increased 60 percent last year and rose more than 2,000 percent 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,” said 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.”
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