Charging for content: the way forward for newspapers?

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Charging for content: the way forward for newspapers?

According to WAN-IFRA's "Global Press Trends 2016" report, $89 billion in revenue came from print and digital circulation, compared to $79 billion from advertising.

By Bernd Debusmann Jr.

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Published: Mon 13 Mar 2017, 2:23 PM

Last updated: Mon 13 Mar 2017, 4:43 PM

Global newspapers and news media generated an estimated $168 billion in circulation and advertising revenue in 2015, according to data from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).
According to WAN-IFRA's "Global Press Trends 2016" report - which includes data from over 70 countries - $89 billion in revenue came from print and digital circulation, compared to $79 billion from advertising. The total global revenue is down two percent from a year earlier, and down seven percent from five years earlier.
Speaking at the WAN-IFRA Middle East conference in Dubai, WAN-IFRA COO Thomas Jacob noted that monetizing digital content is "the biggest growth area" in the media landscape.
"Traditional advertising hasn't panned out exactly in the same way people expected," he said. "We also have a shift to mobile (platforms) that doesn't cater very well to advertising. All that has created the need for digital platforms to charge for content. This is something we've seen around the world."
Jacob noted, however, noted that English language newspapers have a significantly more difficult time charging for content.
"When you're publishing an English-language newspaper, the propensity to pay is much lower compared to non-English language newspapers, obviously for competitive reasons," he noted.
To cope with the challenges, Jacob remarked that many brands have diversified beyond their traditional role as news distributors, investing in advertisers, becoming online retailers, launching events, buying media start-ups and investing in incubators.
Over the last year, Jacob noted, a major development has been the "rise of the platforms" such as Facebook, with many newspapers struggling to balance engagement with their audiences with an inability to monetize the platforms.
"Newspapers have this dilemma. Should we publish on this platform, that doesn't drive traffic to my own website," he said. "At the same time, newspapers find that there is a very high engagement rate."
"The question for newspapers is how to organize strategy - how do I engage the audience and convert them (into) paid subscribers," he added. "Everybody initially published a lot of content on these platforms, but now that we find is that they're scaling down and having specific strategies (for specific platforms)."
Looking to the future, Jacob urged newspapers and publishers to take account of the fact that "the audience has changed."
"These days, the audience wants to be engaged as a community. It's not like the old days," he said. "They want rich, immersive experiences; otherwise they'll go to another website."
 WAN-IFRA Middle East Conference begins today
"News media companies have to consider the audience first, and also make sure you offer solutions," he added. "Audiences are more and more looking for solutions, whether it's in terms of health, education or even traffic management.these are (their) day to day issues."
According to Jacob, WAN-IFRA research has found that the biggest threat to media outlets is internal, with a "reluctance to innovate" a global concern.
"We find the same thing over the world," he said. "Innovation is the most important thing that we need to address."
BOX: Global and Desktop Internet Usage 2016
-Total population of the world: 7.395 billion
-Internet users: 3.419 billion (46 percent)
-Active Social Media Users: 2.307 billion (31 percent)
-Unique mobile users: 3.790 billion (51 percent)
-Active mobile social media users: 1.968 billion (27 percent)
BOX: World Press Trends 2016 Overview
Revenues: $168 billion (down 2 percent from previous period)
Print Circulation: $86 billion (up 0.3 percent)
Print Advertising: $69.5 billion (down 7 percent)
Digital Circulation: $3 billion (up 30 percent)
Digital Advertising: $9.3 billion (up 7 percent)
BOX: Global digital news media circulation revenues 2011-2015 (in billion $US)
2011: 460
2012: 953
2013: 1609
2014: 2300
2015: 3011
BOX: Global print news media circulation revenues (in billion $US)
2011: 84,001
2012: 84,914
2013: 85,181
2014: 86,000
2015: 86.285 
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