Global Newspaper Circulation and Advertising Trends in 2016

June 19, 2017

Globally, newspaper revenues declined by 2% year-over-year in 2016, as increases in circulation sales failed to match declines in ad spending, according to top-line data released as part of the WAN-IFRA’s annual World Press Trends survey. The study estimates that 56% of newspaper revenues were derived from print and digital circulation sales last year.

That’s up from 53% share in 2015 and 51% share in 2014, the first year that circulation sales exceeded ad revenues.

Ad Revenue Trends

Although this WAN-IFRA release doesn’t identify trends by region (as it has in years past), it does mention that despite overall ad revenue declines, there are exceptions found in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with fortunes varying widely across markets.

Overall, global newspaper ad revenues declined by 7%, a slightly smaller rate than the 7.5% drop seen in 2015. Over the past 5 years (from 2012 through 2016), global newspaper ad revenues have fallen by 21%, though again that’s a slightly better result than the 24% drop experienced from 2011 through 2015.

Circulation Sales Trends

The monetization shift towards circulation isn’t just a result of falling ad revenues: circulation sales are increasing.

Last year, circulation sales increased by 2%, with 5-year growth at 21%. Digital circulation sales are – not surprisingly – leading the way, with a year-over-year uptick of 28% and a 5-year gain of 300%.

All told, globally, some 9% of newspaper revenues are derived from digital advertising revenues and circulation sales, up a point from the previous year.

US Newspaper Trends

In a related study, the Pew Research Center recently released its annual State of the Media report, which contains findings about the state of newspapers in the US.

Here are some key points from the report:

  • US daily and Sunday newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) each declined by 8% year-over-year in 2016;
  • Digital circulation is estimated to have declined by 1% for weekday but increased by 1% for Sunday, although the weekday figure would reverse to an 11% gain were independently produced figures from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to be included;
  • The inclusion of those figures would also change the overall drop in weekday circulation to 4%, from 8%;
  • The top 50 US newspapers by circulation averaged 11.7 million monthly unique visitors last year, up 21% from 9.7 million in 2015, as older Americans gravitate more towards mobile news sources;
  • Estimated ad revenues declined by 10% (to $18 billion), whereas estimated circulation revenue inched up by 0.4% (to $11 billion); and
  • Some 29% of newspaper ad revenues came from digital, up from 25% a year earlier and 19% in 2012.
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