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“The financial transition to digital has stalled”: WAN-IFRA World Press Trends Outlook

The recently released World Press Trends Outlook released by WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers), shows that print still remains a key element of news publishers operations. Moreover, print advertising remains the most important income source. Significantly, the transition to digital has stalled.

In the 2022-23 World Press Trends report launched this week, print revenues remained fundamental to the revenue operations of most news publishers. Of the 170 news publishers surveyed, print revenues still made up more than half of all income (54%).

In most developing markets, the figure is even higher. In Africa, for example, print revenues – through both circulation and advertising – account for roughly 75% of publishers’ total income.

Print advertising remains the most important income source, accounting for nearly a third of total revenues (29%). Whilst this is still slightly below last year’s survey, it remains comfortably within the statistical margin for error.

One striking finding from our 2022 survey is the resilience of print incomes. At a time of increased print costs and growing subscription costs, the income needle has barely shifted in the past year.

WAN-IFRA World Trends Report 2022-2023

However, the survey highlighted legitimate concerns around the prospects for advertising income including declines in print circulation – and the revenues that can be derived from it – as well as the
complexity of ad markets, prevalence of ad blockers, ad-tech challenges and uncertainty over digital advertising revenues.

Even more troubling is that the continued growth in digital revenues appears to have stalled.

As a collective whole, the financial transition to digital has stalled. That’s potentially troubling given some of the predicted bumps in the road for digital advertising next year and the longstanding trend lines of monies increasingly going to platforms rather than publishers.

WAN-IFRA World Trends Report 2022-2023

The importance of regaining control

Danny Spears, COO of the Ozone Project, a UK news publisher advertising alliance, says that news publishers need to regain control over their inventory especially digital, “Premium publishers (must) reassert their leadership position regarding how their digital assets – both ad inventory and data – are made available to whom, on which channels, and at what price.”

When it comes to programmatic advertising, there are a number ways publishers can ensure the digital ads they carry are both higher yielding and higher quality. We’ve already seen action from the likes of Bloomberg who join the Financial Times in avoiding open market programmatic – a move we expect others to follow.

Danny Spears, COO of the Ozone Project

Spears also advises publishers to move quickly on issues surrounding sustainability, a key trend WNIP highlighted at WAN-IFRA’s World Media Congress in Zaragoza last September, “2023 will see brands place much greater emphasis on partnering with media partners who align with their own ESG principles.”

Smart publishers are already on the front foot with this, and are looking for ways to work with fewer, better partners in a bid to reduce the volume of emissions associated with their digital media.

Danny Spears, COO of the Ozone Project

Read more and download the full World Press Trends Outlook 2022-2023 report here.