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Intelligence: WARC Global Ad Trends – A focus on print and digital publishing

GLOBAL – Newsbrands’ combined revenue has dipped globally by $27.8bn between 2012 and 2017, with rising income from print circulation and digital advertising not enough to offset a $40.1bn decline in print ad receipts over the period. Publishers are now looking to diversify business models to balance the deficit.

These and other key findings are included the latest monthly Global Ad Trends report focusing on print and digital publishing compiled by WARC, the international authority on advertising and media effectiveness. 

Print still provides over 90% of newsbrands’ revenue and total income is down $28bn since 2012


Print (print advertising and print circulation) still accounts for over 90% of newsbrands’ revenue worldwide, though the majority now comes from circulation. Print circulation revenue has grown by around 1.6% each year, rising from $80.4bn in 2012 to an estimated $86.8bn in 2017 (57.5% of the total). Once the main source of income, print advertising now contributes 33.2% towards the bottom line.

Digital (digital advertising and digital circulation)’s share of newsbrands’ ad income is growing, but is not yet enough to offset print’s decline. Income from digital ads ($10.1bn in 2017, of which $4.7bn is transacted in the US) now provides a further 6.7% and digital subscriptions just 2.6%.

Most publishers believe their business will diversify to offset the downturn

A quarter of respondents to a recent WAN-IFRA survey believe that non-traditional revenue sources (i.e. those beyond circulation, subscriptions and advertising) currently account for less than 10% of total income. By 2022, most (21%) believe non-traditional income will contribute between 31% and 40%. Branded content teams (such as Guardian Labs, WSJ Custom Studios and T Brand Studio) are becoming in-house fixtures, and partnerships with content recommendation companies (such as Outbrain and Taboola) are commonplace.

Facebook offers publishers scale, and risk

The majority of publishers state that their main business objective when engaging with Facebook is to use the platform as a distributor of content. Targeting new audiences and building brand awareness are also key goals, highlighting the social network’s scale.

On average, 26.7% of consumers are sharing news stories online, varying from 43.0% in Brazil to 8.0% in Japan last year. But 53% could not remember the name of the newsbrand when referred from social media. Aside from anonymity, publishers have little control over the user’s overall viewing experience, and monetisation of the audience is a significant issue.

Facebook recently made changes to its news feed algorithm, which de-prioritise video content from third-party media outlets. The move threatens publishers’ “pivot to video”, a strategy which aims to generate more ad income from non-text formats.

UK newsbrands join forces to offer brands context, safety and scale

As of last week, advertisers and agencies are now able to buy digital inventory and access audiences across UK newsbrands The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun and The Guardian from a single sales point. The publishers each have an equal stake in revenue generated from an audience roughly on a par with Facebook’s reach in the UK of 35.1m users, according to the latest PAMCo data, and could be a potential indication of the future model for other publishers.

Summing up, James McDonald, Data Editor, WARC, says: “The data underline the scale of the challenge facing publishers – despite robust consumer interest in their products. The response appears to be to club together to build scale, to emphasise the importance of context and brand safety, and to diversify revenue streams, particularly into native and branded content.”

Global media analysis: A round-up of print and digital publishing

  • 1.6% average growth rate in print circulation revenue
  • 26.7% readers who share news stories on social media
  • 31.0% US newsbrand ad revenue coming from digital
  • 34.3% average growth rate in digital subscription revenue
  • 57.4% consumers who are willing to see advertising in exchange for free news
  • 90.7% newsbrand revenue derived from print

Other new key media intelligence on WARC Data

  • Short-form TV ads capture 8% to 11% more attention per second than long-form
  • YouTube launches ad-free Premium and Music services
  • Accounting adjustment results in Amazon’s ad sales doubling to over $2bn
  • Aussie VOD revenue to top A$126m this year but linear TV formats decline

Global Ad Trends is part of WARC Data, a dedicated online service featuring current advertising benchmarks, data points, ad trends and user-generated expanded databases.   

Aimed at media and brand owners, market analysts, media, advertising and research agencies as well as academics, WARC Data provides current advertising and media information, hard facts and figures – essential market intelligence for ad industry related business, strategy and planning required in any decision making process.

WARC Data is available by subscription only. For more information visit


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