It says a lot about the state of the newspaper industry that it’s considered good news when a publisher breaks even, in light of the constant drumbeat of advertising losses, with print dollars exchanged for digital pennies.
Newspaper watchers were pleasantly surprised when the Daily Mail and General Trust, the British publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, announced total revenues were up 1%.
The real good news tucked inside the Mail announcement: Digital advertising revenues were up 22% or £19 million, more than offset the decline in print, down 11% or £15 million.
That last development bucks the general trend in the newspaper industry on both sides of the Atlantic over the last few years. Growth in digital ad revenues has generally failed to offset print declines – at least until recently.
In fact, there are encouraging signs from other publishers. Newspapers may finally be turning the corner in the ad revenue struggle, with digital ads finally plugging the hole from shrinking print ads.
On the American front, The New York Times Co. revealed that total advertising revenues increased in the second quarter of this year — the first overall increase since 2014 — thanks to strong digital ad growth. Total ad revenues crept up 0.8%, despite a 10.5% drop in print ad revenues, reflecting a 22.5% jump in digital ads. Along with circulation revenues driven by digital sub sales, ad growth contributed to an overall 9.2% increase in revenues to $407 million for the quarter.
Of course, good news from a handful of publishers doesn’t necessarily reflect the overall health of the newspaper business. And there’s no guarantee the digital growth will last, or that the print drops won’t accelerate again.
But these results hold out hope that at least some newspaper publishers may be able to close the book on over a decade of near-continual declines. Now, all they have to do is stay abreast of the ridiculously rapid evolution of digital media and advertising technology, forever.