Local Papers Are Getting A Bigger Digital Boost Than Nationals

The AA/Warc Expenditure Report figures are never easy reading for those in print.

Reporting on those figures is not a joy, either, for any journalist who cut their teeth on print in the days when nobody could have envisaged the news being consumed on tiny screens in the reader's hand.

At least there is a little light at the end of the tunnel for regional newspapers in the latest report, since they are competing well for digital display budgets and so are comparatively losing money at a slower rate than nationals. 

The numbers stack up like this. An 8% dip in print revenue for regionals means a loss of around GBP70m this year, while an 11% increase in digital will see an extra GBP24m coming into the industry. That is getting on for a loss nearly three times as big as new income.

Put very simply, for every new digital pound earned, regional papers are losing nearly three in print.

This is a narrower gap than the nationals side of the industry. There, a 4% loss this year in print will see a GBP44m dip in revenue, with digital gains of 3.5% bringing in GBP9.6m extra.

A very rough calculation suggests nationals are losing money 4.5x as fast as they can recoup it through digital gains. So for every new pound that digital brings in, print loses GBP4.50.

It's interesting to note that AA/Warc sees digital gains being slightly higher next year in regional papers, compared to nationals -- that's nearly 10% compared to just over 6%.

The point is that total digital revenue between regionals and nationals is fairly close, and so this is a significant gain being forecast for regionals next year after an impressive increase already seen this year. 

It is not exactly the stuff dreams are made of. Losing money at a slower rate than another part of the print industry will not reverse the trend toward local papers merging and closing. However, the shift to digital is at least becoming a little easier on regional newspapers.

It is probably the case that there is goodwill toward local papers, but people are traditionally not in the habit of buying one, and certainly they are less inclined to buy a local paper than a national one. But if all one has to do is open up a browser and fire up a local newspaper site to find out what's going on, that's a different matter.

This pent-up goodwill is possibly why digital revenues are improving -- and the gap between what print loses and what digital gains is starting to narrow, ever so slightly.

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