LONDON: Adspend in UK newspapers and magazines could fall by 20% in 2009, according to consultancy Deloitte, which warns that one in ten titles will have to cut the number of issues published or move wholly online due to "impossible" challenges facing the sector.

The combination of falling ad revenues, particularly classifieds, plus continuing declines in circulation and pressure from the internet, could lead to the industry being “decimated”.

Howard Davies, a partner at Deloitte and one of the authors of its report on print media, says: “This is a downward spiral.

"It has already become quite difficult for print publishers, but it is going to get much worse as the advertising market deteriorates."

Free newspapers such as Metro are most at risk, being wholly advertiser-funded, while subscription-only magazines serving niche markets are likely to be better placed in the long term.

Alongside staff cuts, Deloitte posits that newspapers and magazines could go to press "half as often, only at weekends or publish online only"; or reduce their online presence to drive people back to print, depending on the conditions facing each publication.

However, even if they move online profitably, these titles are unlikely to enjoy the sort of revenues experienced before the explosion of web media and the concurrent slowdown in advertising revenues.

Concludes Deloitte's report: "Not even the most successful online newspaper and magazine sites generate sufficient profit to offset declining margin from print versions."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff