World Press Trends: Digital Revenues not to Replace Print

At no time in the foreseeable future will digital advertising revenues replace those lost to print, making the search for new business models ­including paid-for online access for news ­ a pressing concern for the news publishing industry, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) said in its annual world press trends update.

As search engines take the largest slice of internet advertising revenues,little is left for the content generators themselves. In a 182-billion dollar press advertising industry, digital revenues of newspapers accounted for less than 6 billion dollars last year and are forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers to grow to no more than 8.4 billion dollars by 2013.

At the same time, print advertising is expected to decline. PwC predicts that by 2013, combined print and digital ad revenues will be less than print only ad revenues were in 2008.

“These PwC forecasts, similar to those made by Zenith Optimedia and others, demonstrate quite simply that at no time soon will digital advertising revenues come close to achieving the sort of revenues required, by many, to compensate for falling print revenue,” said Timothy Balding, co-CEO of WAN-IFRA. “So that answer will have to be found elsewhere. Should these forecasts come close to being true, new business models will have to be

“If newspaper companies wish to maintain their strong content leadership, someone is going to have to pay. It looks like we have to solve the digital payment issue ­ and soon,” he said.

The annual world press trends survey was presented Tuesday (1 December) at the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Hyderabad, India,where the paid content issue is being hotly debated.

Yet despite the problems of falling advertising revenues, forecasts of even further declines, and pressure from new competitors, the global newspaper industry is far from facing an “apocalypse,” Mr Balding said.

“Despite the endless predictions about the death of newspapers, they actually continue to grow, at least on a global scale,” said Timothy Balding, co-CEO of WAN-IFRA.

The WAN-IFRA survey showed that newspaper circulation grew, on a global scale, by 1.3 percent in 2008, the last full year for which data exists, and almost 9 percent over five years.

“You might say that this growth is taking place in the developing markets and masks a continued downward trend in the developed world. And to a degree this is true, but it is not the whole story, as newspaper companies in the ‘old’ markets have embraced digital platforms and new forms of print publishing and, in doing so, have actually grown their audience reach and revenues, even while their print circulations have come under pressure,” Mr Balding said.

The data shows consistent newspaper growth in Africa, Asia and South America, and a long-term slowdown in the US and European markets.

“But even here, a sense of proportion demands that we deny the idea that the apocalypse is upon us,” said Mr Balding. “A circulation drop in Europe, for example, is less than 3 percent over five years. Over five years, according to our survey, newspaper circulation increased in 100 of the 182 nations for which we have reliable data.”

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