WAN-IFRA 2009: Threats far outweigh opportunities facing print media in coming times: Timothy Balding

Timothy Balding, Co-CEO, WAN-IFRA, highlighted several global trends in his presentation ‘World Trends in the Newspaper Industry’ at the 62nd World Newspaper Congress and 16th World Editors Forum in Hyderabad. He maintained that despite the problems of falling advertising revenues and pressure from new competitors, the global newspaper industry was far from facing an ‘apocalypse’.

e4m by John Napier
Updated: Dec 2, 2009 7:41 AM
WAN-IFRA 2009: Threats far outweigh opportunities facing print media in coming times: Timothy Balding

That the slowdown bug has deprived all of monetary gains in varying amounts is a fact, but analysing the extent of the damage is what is keeping press honchos occupied in their boardrooms these days. Like most other industries, the newspaper industry, too, suffered huge losses. Worldwide, publishers reported a 35-40 per cent drop in ad revenues due to the slowdown, with the industry anticipating a further 2.9 per cent drop in 2010.

One major country that was heavily impacted was the US, where, according to the Newspaper Association of America, the country reported a drop of 29 per cent in ad revenues and a 10.9 per cent decline in subscription revenues. Even revenues from the ‘dependable’ digital medium came crashing by 17 per cent for the press-heavy economy. These and several other global trends were made known by Timothy Balding, Co-CEO, WAN-IFRA, during his presentation on ‘World Trends in the Newspaper Industry’ on the second day of the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Hyderabad.

Citing data, Balding said that when it came to digital, search engines took the largest slice of Internet advertising revenues, where little was left for the content generators themselves. In a $182-billion press advertising industry, digital revenues of newspapers accounted for less than $6 billion last year and were forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers to grow to no more than $8.4 billion by 2013, he said.

At the same time, print advertising is also expected to decline. PwC predicts that by 2013, combined print and digital ad revenues will be less than what print only ad revenues were in 2008.

“These PwC forecasts, similar to those made by ZenithOptimedia and others, demonstrate quite simply that at no time soon will digital advertising revenues come close to achieving the sort of revenues required by many to compensate for falling print revenues,” Balding noted. He further said, “The answer will have to be found elsewhere. Should these forecasts come close to being true, new business models will have to be invented.”

Yet despite the problems of falling advertising revenues, forecasts of even further declines, and pressure from new competitors, the global newspaper industry was far from facing an ‘apocalypse’, Balding said.

The WAN-IFRA survey showed that newspaper circulation grew on a global scale by 1.3 per cent in 2008, the last full year for which data exists, and almost 9 per cent over the last five years.

He noted, “You might say that this growth is taking place in the developing markets and masks a continued downward trend in the developed world. And to a degree this is true, but it is not the whole story, as newspaper companies in the ’old’ markets have embraced digital platforms and new forms of print publishing and, in doing so, have actually grown their audience reach and revenues, even while their print circulations have come under pressure.”

The data shows consistent newspaper growth in Africa, Asia and South America, and a long-term slowdown in the US and European markets.

The survey was drawn primarily from data from WAN-IFRA’s World Press Trends and World Digital Media Trends surveys, and from data provided by ZenithOptimedia and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Some of the highlights from the presentation include: globally, 1.9 billion people choose to read a newspaper every day, or 34 per cent of the world population, while 24 per cent use the Internet; the biggest newspaper market in the world is India, with 107 million daily sales; India, China and Japan account for more than 60 per cent of the world’s newspaper sales, with the US taking 14 per cent; in terms of sales per 1,000 adult population, Japan leads the world with 612, followed by Norway with 576, and Finland with 482. In terms of reach, 91 per cent of Japanese continue to read a newspaper daily - a remarkable figure in such a technologically advanced and wired society.

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