Increasing Audience Engagement is Future for News Media

According to the annual World Press Trends survey of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers released last week, print newspaper circulations continued to rise in Asia and decline in mature markets in the West, while digital advances have increased the audience for newspaper content as never before. But the growth on digital platforms is not being followed by consequent growth in advertising revenues. An analysis of the trends data shows that news sites enjoy high readership, but the level of reader engagement is low.

Vincent Peyrègne, CEO of WAN-IFRA, presenting to more than 1,500 publishers, chief editors and other delegates at the combined World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok, said “... newspapers reach a vast number of readers in print, online and mobile... (while) advertising engagement in print keeps performing well... and improves in many countries... newspaper professionals understand... benefits offered by the digital world to improve the quality of their conversation with communities, identify (expansion in) new territories, help reduce the complexity of the world, and increase the trust of their audience...”



Mr Peyrègne addressed the basic challenge to the news business, “... an opportunity to come back to our core mission and values: empowering free citizens by providing them with the news and information necessary to make informed decisions in society... ”

The data, compiled in an annual report to all WAN-IFRA members, and through subscription to the World Press Trends interactive database, showed that:

  • More than half the world’s adult population read a daily newspaper: 2.5 billion in print, more than 600 million in digital form
  • The newspaper industry generates more than US$200 billion of revenue annually
  • Newspaper circulation declined only -0.9% globally in 2012 from a year earlier, as rising circulations in Asia offset circulation losses elsewhere

Showing regional circulation data, the study found that circulation declined over one year by:

  • 6.6% in North America
  • 5.3% in western Europe
  • 8.2% in eastern Europe
  • 1.4% in the Middle East and North Africa

In the same period, circulation increased

  • 1.2% in Asia
  • 3.5% in Australia and New Zealand
  • 0.1% in Latin America

Newspaper advertising revenues declined 2% globally in 2012 from a year earlier, and 22%since 2008. The five-year decline was driven primarily by newspaper advertising declines in the United States, the world’s largest advertising market. Print advertising fell 42% in the United States over five years, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the global loss in newspaper advertising.

The decline in US newspaper advertising revenues reflects the US publishers’ traditionally high dependence on classified advertising, says the report. An estimated 80% of classified is now digital. Though much of it is among ‘pure players’ that are owned by publishers, that revenue is not reflected in industry statistics.

The report also shows that

  • The biggest challenge for publishers continues to be how to increase the engagement of audiences on digital platforms. While more than half of the digital population visit newspaper websites, newspapers are a small part of total internet consumption, representing only 7% of visits, only 1.3% of time spent, and only 0.9% of total pages visited.
  • According to the Alliance of Audited Media, nearly half of US publishers now adopt some form of paid content model. 40% are using a metered model, one-third charge for premium content, 17% require payment for any access, and 10% use some other model.
  • Mobile and tablets are rapidly becoming a medium of choice for many news consumers, accounting for 20% of page views in markets where data is available. Research in the United States, Germany and France suggest that news engagement via tablet, as measured by time spent with news content, is equal to that of the printed newspaper.

In the United States, 27% of newspaper company revenues now come from non- traditional sources:

  • 11% from digital,
  • 8% from new revenue from other sources (service to clients in addition to advertising)
  • 8% from non-publishing revenue (e-commerce)

For the first time, World Press Trends includes definitive readership data on the Middle East. Readership varies enormously, ranging from 5% of people in Iraq to 70% in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Finally, WAN-IFRA reports a direct correlation between newspaper success and their appeal to female readers. As readership levels rise, so too does the ratio of female to male readers. In Iraq, one third of readers are women, compared to Kuwait where more women read newspapers than men. 

For additional information from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, please visit here.



4 comments about "Increasing Audience Engagement is Future for News Media".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, June 10, 2013 at 8:35 a.m.

    Can anyone please elucidate what period the +3.5% increase in circulation in Australia pertained to, because that doesn't accord with recent audited data.

  2. Jack Loechner from Mediapost Communications, June 10, 2013 at 1:06 p.m.

    I can only suggest, John, that you investigate this directly with the World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA) beginning with this URL... Thanks for the question... jack

  3. Taylor Wray from Kantar Retail, June 11, 2013 at 9:59 a.m.

    "An analysis of the trends data shows that news sites enjoy high readership, but the level of reader engagement is low."

    What does 'engagement' mean in this context? If the primary purpose of news media is to simply inform, why is reader engagement such a pressing challenge? I would think just getting people to subscribe again would take precedence over that.

    Even back in the newspapers' heyday, the primary form of "engagement" they received was people using them to wrap fish and meat.

  4. Jack Loechner from Mediapost Communications, June 11, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

    In looking back over the original material, Taylor, I found a reference to engagement as used in the study report as "... research in the United States, Germany and France suggest that news engagement (via tablet), as measured by time spent with news content, is equal to that of the printed newspaper... "

    To dig deeper, I could only recommend establishing contact with the authors of the report at


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