Warc Blog

Newspapers still struggling to adapt

7 March 2012
NEW YORK: Newspaper owners in the US have lost $7 in print revenue for every $1 gained in digital sales, new research has found.

The Pew Research Center's Project For Excellence in Journalism collected data from six major publishers boasting 38 titles, and tested the findings with seven other companies.

Papers featured in the study took $11 in print for every $1 claimed online. As such, while digital ad sales rose by a norm of 19% over the year assessed, this failed to offset a 9% decline for print.

The "displacement ratio" suffered was therefore roughly seven-to-one. As print ads still deliver 85% of revenues industry wide, the impetus for change is thus clear.

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project For Excellence in Journalism, said: "Some of those we talked to seem frustrated and even uncertain about how to proceed. But we also found signs that, if you can break out of old cultural patterns, there is another way."

The newspapers analysed attributed 50% of online revenues to conventional display and 26% to classifieds. Some 92% placed "major" sales emphasis on the first of these formats, as did 66% for the second.

"Yet those categories are not growing and have already proven to be insufficient to keep up with losses in print. And in the future, they are expected to be eclipsed by new categories, particularly targeted advertising," the study said.

Indeed, only 40% of titles were heavily pushing targeted display, and all of them placed a "minor" focus on video, meaning these areas supplied 4% and 2% of revenues respectively.

Such figures also came despite the fact 93% of publishers expected anticipated targeted display should see the most growth in the next 12 months, standing at 88% for video, 72% for classifieds and 78% for conventional display.

Mobile, including tablets, provides just 0.9% of revenue today, up from 0.1% year on year. The panel thought display may work best on slates, which resemble "legacy" media, while "quick hits" like ecommerce would be key for smartphones.

In all, 30 of the newspapers assessed were involved in daily deals, be it with third parties including Groupon or in-house alternatives. Such schemes netted 5% of digital sales, a one-point annual lift.

A further 56% of newspapers were also pursuing "non-traditional" revenue-generating activities like events, consulting and selling business products, but these typically yielded less than $10,000 a quarter.

Data sourced from Project For Excellence in Journalism; additional content by Warc staff

 
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