Newspapers' Digital Circ Revenues Growing Fast Globally

Newspaper publishers worldwide remain under intense financial pressure, due to the long-term decline of print advertising. Digital ad revenues are doing little to make up for the losses, as most digital ad spending is funneled to the duopoly of Google and Facebook or other big technology platforms.

However, there is a bright spot in the form of digital circulation, as more newspapers establish pay walls and sell online subscriptions. The move has powered double-digit growth in digital circ revenues over the last few years.

That's according to the latest World Press Trends report from WAN-IFRA, which presents a decidedly mixed picture of the newspaper industry’s fortunes, based on a survey of publishers in over 70 countries.

Total digital circulation revenues soared 300% from 2012-2016, the survey found, including a 28% year-over-year increase in 2016, and WAN-IFRA expects the trend to continue in coming years. Last year, 30% of all newspapers’ digital revenues came from digital subscriptions and other forms of reader payment.



Together, print and digital circulation contributed over half (56%) of newspapers’ total revenues.

By contrast, digital ad growth remained relatively anemic, edging up 5% in 2016. While better than nothing, this modest increase failed to offset the steep, ongoing decline in print ad revenues, which tumbled 8% in 2016. The losses in newspapers’ traditional print ad base more than outweighed combined digital ad and circ growth, resulting in an overall decline of 2.1% in global newspaper revenues.

Indeed, print advertising and circulation continue to make up the vast majority of all newspaper revenues, accounting for 91.6% in 2016, a marginal decrease from 95.1% in 2012, according to WAN-IFRA’s estimates.

In the United States, total newspaper revenues fell 5.9% in the second quarter of 2017, to just over $6 billion, and are down 5% for the first half of the year, to $11.8 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That follows a decline of 4.4% from 2015-2016, from a total of $26.6 billion to $25.4 billion, also according to the Census.

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