Mobile Social Video Thrives, But Print Likely Down A Third In Three Years

The figures are in, and the latest Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure report reveals that digital advertising is going from strength to strength. Sadly, it's a tale of two halves.

Print is still declining, and from my back-of-an-envelope calculation, local and national newspaper expenditure will each be at nearly two-thirds its 2015 level by the end of 2018. Almost a third of spend has gone in just three years.

First the positives. Total UK ad spend is up 3.5% year-on-year for third-quarter 2017 -- the seventeenth consecutive quarter of growth. The projected growth estimate for the whole of 2017 has been revised up to 3.4%, and then 2.8% next year. 

According to Warc, the big driver of this upward momentum is mobile, social and video. Put all three of these trends together and you have where AA/WARC says brands are increasingly putting their budgets. In fact, one in every four pounds spent on advertising in the UK in Q3 of 2017 went on mobile. Impressive stuff.

However, this is always the tough part. Where there are winners, there are inevitably losers. It's no surprise to hear that it's print, and in particular, local. The losses are in the tens of percentage points for each year between 2015 to 2018, levelling out at just under 10% for the latter year.

My calculation on the back of an envelope suggest this means a revenue stream worth more than GBP1.1bn in 2015 will be around the GBP780m mark by the end of 2018, according to AA/WARC predictions. I stress that it's very rough mathematics, but it illustrates the point. Very roughly, in just three years, a third of local newspapers' print ad revenue has disappeared. 

It's pretty much the same story for nationals, which bear a close resemblance to local media's downward-spiralling numbers. Again, around a third of spend will have vanished over three years. 

One can imagine this is slightly less of a strain on nationals with paywalls or voluntary funding schemes, as AOP figures show that subscriptions for quality newspapers were up a fifth in third-quarter 2017 year-on-year and digital advertising for online publishers was also up, by 37%.

However, AA/WARC is suggesting that local newspapers' digital revenues are climbing at just a quarter of the pace of their national counterparts, although they're losing around the same amount of money in print. Local media, I would contend, is also a lot less likely to attract subscriptions from the public compared to the big nationals.

So it's not a great time for newspapers, but the nationals appear to be on the receiving end of a flight to quality, which is softening the blow of what is happening to print revenues.

For a lover of the local press like myself -- who, like many other journalists, cut their teeth on local titles -- it is very sad to see what is happening with local media. The latest set of figures suggest there is no letup in the bad news for the local media that serve our communities so well. 

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