World Press Trends Report: Performance and Impact of the Pandemic

The World Association of Newspapers and Newspaper Publishers’ annual report on global newspaper trends reveals some key insights into the state of publishing.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, it’s still worth noting that the news media industry is a R67 billion business, according to PwC and our analysis. Nevertheless, the figures speak for themselves …

Forty-three percent of respondents to our World News Publishers Outlook survey said their income had declined by more than 20% in the past 12 months; 7% said theirs had decreased by more than 10%.

On average, overall revenue fell 11%, publishers reported, the same figure reported by PwC.

Print advertising was the biggest part of the crisis: down 19.5% globally. Revenue from print runs was also affected: down 13% (Outlook and PwC).

However, 17% of publishers reported an increase in revenue last year, according to our Outlook survey, and 11% said revenue was actually up more than 20%. Compared to the Great Recession of just over a decade ago, this is 5.5 times higher than what publishers were reporting at the time.

Digital reader revenues and digital readership continued to grow dramatically – up almost 27% and 36%, respectively last year (Outlook survey) – as audiences sought quality journalism in a ‘ climate ” uncertain, marked by disinformation and mistrust.

While digital advertising remains a challenge on several fronts, revenues grew 9% last year (PwC and Outlook). Newspaper ad spend now accounts for 5.7% of global ad spend (-2.2% year-on-year).

In our World Printers Forum outlook survey, 70.5% of production executives said they had downsized to some extent since the start of the pandemic and expected more cuts this year.

Like all businesses around the world, the way news media will work in the future may never be the same: 87% of publishers say the pandemic has changed the way their news agencies operate in terms of work flow, communication and process (Outlook).

Forecast, costs, risks

According to our Outlook survey, 65% of publishers believe their business will fully recover from the pandemic; 35% do not.

Almost 60% of editors (Outlook) say their staff will work from home or have the option to do so in the future. Only 5% of our respondents plan to bring everyone back to the office, while 16% think they will use less real estate in the future.

For the first time in our survey, we asked publishers to share their general distribution of costs across the company. The largest expense was the production of editorial content, accounting for just over a third of all costs (33.5%). Print production and distribution have historically dominated cost structures, but according to our survey, they now only represent 21.4%.

Despite the decline in print advertising and the continuing challenges of digital advertising – and the fact that audience revenues have exceeded ad revenues in our reports over the past five years – advertising was still cited as the source of highest revenue (27%), followed by subscriptions (21%), sales of unique copies (10%) and then a cluster of diversified revenue sources.

In addition, information managers (Outlook) also see the continued decline in advertising (30.6% of respondents) as the greatest risk to the future success of their organization, followed by the inability to diversify flows. of income (21%).

Interestingly, the “continuing pandemic” ranked third in risk with 12.9%. Also, when we asked this question almost five years ago, “lack of innovation” was the number one risk for publishers. In this year’s survey, it tracked the pandemic with 9.7%.

Main priorities and investments

When we asked publishers about the most important change to implement in their organization in the coming year, accelerating the digital transformation strategy was the top priority (44% of respondents).

When we asked for the best investment plans in 2021, paid digital content was the first choice, followed by technology and data to support reader revenue strategies, newsroom skills development and development. of products.

According to Chartbeat, the share of subscribers among the news publisher audience globally increased in 2020, as did the loyalty of these subscribers in terms of frequency.

Fostering a culture of long-term innovation pays off. Executives of organizations with a strong culture of innovation report a larger digital audience and higher profits – and are more optimistic about the prospects for a full recovery of their business.

The question of trust and diversity

Edelman released its annual Confidence Barometer results in January of last year and, as expected, the media ranked last among the four societal institutions (business, NGOs and government being the others) monitored by Edelman. It should be noted that newspapers are grouped under a broad category of “media”.

Print newspapers, local newspapers and their websites were ranked among the most trusted advertising platforms in WAN-IFRA’s Consumer Trust in Ads report.

Although the industry is apparently focusing more on the lack of diversity in news media, the recently released Reuters Institute study on Women and Leadership in News Media 2021 found that only 22% of the 180 editors among the 240 brands covered are women, despite the fact that, on average, 40% of journalists in the 12 markets are women.

Tech trends you can’t ignore

Artificial intelligence is increasingly playing a role in publishers’ strategies on several fronts: content creation; newsletters; surface content; predictive analysis; content monetization and more.

In an upcoming WAN-IFRA report on AI and Reader Revenue, 76% of respondents to an ongoing publisher survey said AI is important to the success of their business over the next three years.

About 55% said they are already implementing AI to some extent.

The adoption and implementation of 5G networks around the world is starting to take off, which is good news for publishers who have optimized websites, especially mobile content (where the majority of content is consumed today). ), an advertising experience and a good volume of video / audio content.

If you don’t have them in order, you risk driving users and advertising customers away.


The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, WAN-IFRA, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization made up of 76 national newspaper associations, 12 news agencies, 10 regional news organizations and numerous newspaper executives in 100 countries. It publishes the Global Press Trends report annually.


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