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“The business model that was broken is being re-made through technology”: How digital is helping publishers find new revenue streams

More people are consuming news more frequently, Australian media report finds

Global paid digital circulation volumes of newspapers increased by 307% to reach 31.5M paying subscribers between 2013 and 2018. Print circulation figures fell by 0.5% during the same period, according to Australian Media Landscape Trends, a new report by AlphaBeta

Across all news publications globally, the fall in paid print subscriptions has been more than offset by growth in paid digital news subscriptions. Between 2013 and 2018, the number of paid print subscriptions fell approximately 3M while paid digital subscriptions increased by 26M. 

Australian Media Landscape Trends

The report is based on a study of Australian newspapers’ revenue from 2002 to 2018. It presents an analysis of the changes in publishers’ revenue streams and reader behavior.

78% of the losses from print have been offset by gains in online

Between 2002 and 2018, newspaper revenues fell $1.4B, from $4.4B to $3.0 billion. The study found that 92% of this decline was from the loss of classifieds whose contribution fell from $1.5B in 2002, to $0.2B in 2018. 

Most of the classified revenue have been captured by online pure plays: digital-only businesses that target specific niches such as job advertisements, second-hand goods, or real estate listings. 

Compared with classifieds, other newspaper revenue streams – circulation and display advertising – have been relatively stable. 78% of the losses from print have been offset by gains in online over the past two decades. 

Print circulation revenue fell $0.5B (from $1.3B to $0.8B) between 2002 and 2018, but there was a $0.2B increase in online circulation. Display advertising revenues increased from $1.6B to $1.7B between 2002 and 2018. This involved a $0.4B decrease in print display advertising, offset by an additional $0.5B from advertising on online news sites.

More people are consuming news more frequently

Meanwhile total newspaper readership has grown. Australian newspapers were serving 15.7M readers as of 2018, up from 15M in 2002. Moreover, the frequency with which Australians access the news has also increased. 

Between 2016 and 2018, the number of people who accessed news multiple times a day increased 15%. 82% of news readers say they access news at least once a day, with 56% doing so more frequently.

Social media has become an increasingly prominent source of news. Between 2017 and 2020, the share of Australians who access news primarily through social media increased 5 percentage points. 21% Australian adults now use social media as their primary source of news, up from 16% in 2017.

The economics of news publishing is getting transformed

The AlphaBeta study offers hope, says Nic Hopkins, Google News Lab Lead, Australia and New Zealand. “Today we spend greater amounts of time than ever before consuming the news, and there are many innovative new publishers finding readers that would have struggled to get a foothold in the days of the printing press.” 

He cites a Telum Media report according to which more than 30 new digital mastheads have emerged just this year despite the pandemic. 

The business model that was broken is being re-made through technology: distribution, analytics, advertising, subscriptions. Reader contributions and subscriptions are transforming the economics of publishing news.

Nic Hopkins, Google News Lab Lead, Australia and New Zealand

The full report is available from AlphaBeta:
Australian Media Landscape Trends