Paywalls not cutting it for US newspapers.
What happens in the American newspaper industry is usually replicated around the world. The rise of the internet and the exit of ad and circulation revenues first started ravaging the American industry a decade ago; they have been rolling over the Australian and British industries for the past seven years.
Paywalls emerged as the answer to the revenue and sales losses -- based on what was happening at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal
, the Financial Times
(an international paper that sells more copies in the US than in any other market) and then The New York Times
. Paywalls still look promising, but that's about all you can say following the release of the 2013 annual report
of the Newspaper Association of America. In short, the industry is still contracting, and it is now being forced to realise that just as digital ad revenues won't replace lost print ad revenues, paywalls won't be replacing the lost print sales revenues anytime soon.
The industry's overall revenue was down 2.6% to US$37.6 billion in 2013, according to the association. That was a larger drop than the 2% fall reported for 2012 (to US$38.6 billion, which in turn was down from US$39.5 billion in 2011). In 2012, the association revamped its reporting to include the financial impact of mobile ads, digital paywalls and other forms of revenue generation.
That change in 2013 found around US$6 billion in new revenue for the industry -- US$3 billion that was not counted before and another US$3 billion that did not exist a few years ago. Together they made up some 16% of all newspaper revenues in 2012. That dropped to around 12% in 2013, a drop that underlines the difficulties newspapers the world over face. Print ad revenues are now at their lowest level, accounting for less than 50% of the industry's total (contracting) revenue. There was a 6.5% fall in all ad revenues for the industry in 2013 to US$23.6 billion, from US$25.2 billion.
Thanks to the rising impact of digital paywalls, US newspapers collectively recorded a 3.7% jump in circulation revenues over the year, to US$10.87 billion from US$10.4 billion. Other revenues grew from to US$3.15 billion from US$3 billion. Digital advertising grew by just 1.5% in 2013 to US$3.42 billion (19% of all newspaper revenues last year). Mobile ad spending soared 77%, although it still accounts for less than 1% of total newspaper revenue (just over US$300 million).
Apart from the rapid growth in mobile ad revenues, the most intriguing part of the report's analysis of digital revenues was the revelation that "digital-only circulation revenue" grew 47% (in other words, the revenues from paywalls), and that this helped boost the combined print and digital sales revenue by an impressive 108% in 2013. But print-only circulation revenues from home deliveries and single copy sales slid 20%. Paywalls might end up as the only revenue source with any growth potential for print media. This revenue outlook for print is why so many publishers and others (even in the electronic media) are looking to so-called "native advertising" as a new revenue source. -- Glenn Dyer
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