Paid newspaper circulation ‘falls below 3 million’

Paid newspaper circulation ‘falls below 3 million’

National paid-for news circulation has dipped below 3 million, according to a report from Enders’ Analysis.

The continued decline in print, which has historically been more lucrative for publishers’ advertising revenues, comes as outlets have also faced a challenging digital market this year.

Average circulations of paid-for daily national newspapers had previously fallen below 3 million in March 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but bounced back by May 2020. However, the decline in circulations has continued since. According to Enders, over the past 10 years, circulations have dropped 60%.

Enders’ internal data could not be verified independently by publicly available data. The latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) in May list circulations above 3.2 million.

A number of publishers in recent years have declined to disclose circulations figures to the ABC as they have continued to fall, instead opting to focus on other metrics, such as online readership.

Analysis: new opportunities in events?

Regardless of whether Enders’ own data showing circulations have dipped below 3 million can currently be independently verified, there’s no denying the broader trend: fewer people read physical newspapers today than they used to, and that figure will only continue to decline as younger generations, used to receiving their news online, make up a broader segment of the population.

Given publishers have needed to trade “print dimes for digital dollars” (digital ad revenues are far less lucrative than print), the shift to digital has forced them to be resilient and creative in adjusting their business strategies.

Podcast: What next for digital publishing?

Since The Times began putting up a paywall in 2010, other publishers have followed suit. Many outlets have put up a strict paywall or moved to a hybrid model by allowing readers a certain number of free articles per month before being forced to pay to read more.

The shift to such a subscription model has drawn some criticism; namely that individuals of lower means are less likely to be able to pay for premium news, making the practice regressive and anti-democratic. Perhaps just as saliently, consumers’ willingness to pay for news across the board has eroded in the Information Age as an oversupply of free information has worn away at consumers’ value and trust in news.

More recently, newsbrands have been developing additional revenue streams. The New York Times has expanded through the creation of new verticals, including Games, Cooking, and Audio, to make its subscription offer more enticing to consumers. Other brands appear to be following the B2B playbook by expanding their events footprint. The Times, for example, is currently advertising a “Head of Corporate Events” role, denoting their interest in the area. Time is also expecting to grow its event-based revenue 55% in 2023 by doubling the events in its calendar, and new digital startup Semafor is hosting 40 events this year with the expectation they will generate 30% of the company’s revenue.

Recent efforts to support premium and trusted news publishers through advertising have received popular support from within the ad industry. Ozone, for example, was founded to make buying ads on top newsbrands more appealing by making it easy for advertisers to buy display ads and pool publishers’ data at scale. Meanwhile, GroupM’s Back to News Initiative looks to support the reinvestment of media budgets in credible news publishers.

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