Print Titles Continue To Swap Fivers For Pound Coins

It's that time of the year when AA/Warc gives the great advertising news with another bumper twelve months of -- in the case of last year -- 6% growth. But as ever for print, the news is not so good, as it finishes another year of losing a five-pound note for every new pound coin that comes in.

The figures comes out a fortuitous time when The Guardian has finally delivered on its three-year pledge to break even. It hasn't done this through advertising revenue, of course. The leap has come from strong voluntary subscriptions of GBP5 a month.

The notion that online advertising growth can keep a newspaper in the black can finally be laid to rest.

For the wider print scene, the news really isn't so good. Even if we take in this year's more encouraging forecast -- which includes digital growth this year instead of a slight decline last year -- the news is still bad for national newspapers.

To make the sums really easy, and to round things up, the sector is due to lose around GBP90m during 2018 and 2019. Digital growth will bring in around an extra GBP25m across the two years.

It doesn't take a lot of rounding up to see that is getting on for national newspapers losing a crisp five-pound note for every pound coin they bring in.

Sadly, it was a very similar story for regional newspapers which lost around GBP70m in print during 2018 and only made an extra GBP15. Again we're getting very close there to swapping fivers for pound coins. 

As for magazine, the news is even worse. Last year and this year, the sector is going through a 10% contraction in the marketplace, costing around GBP70m to GBP75m.

The really bad news is that a loss and gain in digital revenues balance each other out to mean there will be no digital gain. Magazines aren't swapping notes for coins. They're bleeding notes -- and there are no coins coming in to stem the tide.

Any publisher who still clings to the notion that things will turn around and digital revenues will help them turn the tide needs to look at these figures and rethink their strategy.

The Guardian has balanced the books through voluntary contribution. It's unlikely that regional titles could do this, but they could surely launch membership clubs for exclusive content and access to events in the towns they cover, or perhaps partner with another organisation in a town or city to bring in a few extra pounds.

If things continue as they are now, we will only see more journalist redundancies and more titles closing.

The search for revenue has to go beyond digital advertising -- which, quite simply, doesn't bring in enough new money to make up for the losses suffered in print. 

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