World Press Trends Study Shows Global Shift to Reader-Based Revenue

The results of WAN-IFRA’s annual survey depict an industry that is increasingly building loyal audiences around its high-quality journalism, as the shift to reader-based revenue continues.

The World Press Trends survey includes data from more than 70 countries, accounting for more than 90 per cent of the global industry’s value. The data is provided by dozens of national newspaper and news media associations, including the News Media Association representing UK publishers, with additional information coming from global suppliers Zenith, IPSOS, PwC and Chartbeat.

In its 2017 World Press Trends study, WAN-IFRA estimates that 56 percent of newspapers’ overall revenue came from circulation sales, print and digital, in 2016.

“The shift from advertising to reader-based revenue is reshaping the fundamentals of our industry,” said WAN-IFRA chief executive Vincent Peyrègne, who presented the key findings from the global study at the 69th World News Media Congress and 24th World Editors Forum in Durban, South Africa.

“We have entered a pivotal moment, and more than ever our focus needs to be on our audience and producing high-quality, engaging journalism,” Mr. Peyrègne said.

“Now, we have entered a new period… This phase, which we can call ‘Stories as a Service,’ is built on a new relationship with readers, who are increasingly ready to pay for the journalism… It’s important to understand, though, that for younger audiences to be willing to pay, they must bond with your mission and purpose,” he said.

Trust is the new currency

Interestingly, this trend continues to emerge at a time when survey after survey reveals that people around the world are losing their trust not only in media, but societal institutions in general. “The decline in trust is the biggest risk we face as an industry, and all our efforts must be with the aim of getting it back,” Mr. Peyrègne said. “We used to trade in attention. But trust is our new currency,” Mr. Peyrègne said. “Any decline in trust erodes the foundation of our business: credible, first-rate journalism.”

He said: “So-called ‘fake news’ is also an opportunity for us. When asked by the Reuters Institute, 70 percent of CEOs said they believe public worries over spread of fake news in social networks will ultimately strengthen their position.”

The audience-centric era

A fundamental shift in the newspaper business model took place two years ago, when reader revenue became the biggest source of revenue for news publishers. Global digital circulation revenues grew by 28 per cent from 2015 to 2016, and a full 300 per cent from 2012 to 2016, with the trend expected to continue. Despite that, total global newspaper revenues fell 2.1 per cent in 2016 from a year earlier, and are down 7.8 per cent over the last five years.

Advertising revenues continue to decline in most markets, although there are notable exceptions in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and rates of decline vary greatly between different markets.