Complex Made Simple

And you thought print media is dead…

Newsbrands’ combined revenue has dipped globally by $27.8bn between 2012 and 2017, with rising income from print circulation and digital advertising not enough to offset a $40.1bn decline in print ad receipts over the period. Publishers are now looking to diversify business models to balance the deficit.

However, despite that, print (print advertising and print circulation) still accounts for over 90% of newsbrands’ revenue worldwide, though the majority now comes from circulation.

Print circulation revenue has grown by around 1.6% each year, rising from $80.4bn in 2012 to an estimated $86.8bn in 2017 (57.5% of the total). Once the main source of income, print advertising now contributes 33.2% towards the bottom line.


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According to the latest monthly Global Ad Trends report focusing on print and digital publishing compiled by WARC, the global marketing intelligence service, digital (digital advertising and digital circulation)’s share of newsbrands’ ad income is growing, but is not yet enough to offset print’s decline.

Income from digital ads ($10.1bn in 2017, of which $4.7bn is transacted in the US) now provides a further 6.7% and digital subscriptions just 2.6%.

Publishers believe their business will diversify

A quarter of respondents to a recent WAN-IFRA survey believe that non-traditional revenue sources (i.e. those beyond circulation, subscriptions and advertising) currently account for less than 10% of total income.

By 2022, most (21%) believe non-traditional income will contribute between 31% and 40%. Branded content teams (such as Guardian Labs, WSJ Custom Studios and T Brand Studio) are becoming in-house fixtures, and partnerships with content recommendation companies (such as Outbrain and Taboola) are commonplace.


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James McDonald, Data Editor, WARC, says: “The data underline the scale of the challenge facing publishers – despite robust consumer interest in their products. The response appears to be to club together to build scale, to emphasise the importance of context and brand safety, and to diversify revenue streams, particularly into native and branded content.”

Global media analysis: A round-up of print and digital publishing


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– 1.6% average growth rate in print circulation revenue

– 26.7% readers who share news stories on social media

– 31.0% US newsbrand ad revenue coming from digital

– 34.3% average growth rate in digital subscription revenue

– 57.4% consumers who are willing to see advertising in exchange for free news

– 90.7% newsbrand revenue derived from print