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UK Newspapers Fight Falling Ad Revenues

New income sources sought as ad spending slows

March 17, 2017

It is not front-page news that print media—and particularly newspapers—are suffering from falling ad revenues. According to eMarketer’s latest UK media ad spending forecast, print newspapers will attract approximately £1.46 billion ($1.97 billion) in ad expenditures in 2017, down 9.0% from last year. By 2021, spending will decline to £1.23 billion ($1.66 billion).

UK Newspaper Ad Spending, 2016-2021 (billions of £ and % change)

Newspapers aren’t restricted to print runs, of course, but while these “news brands” have increased their digital influence massively, their ad revenue streams have not seen corresponding growth. According to January 2017 forecasts from the Advertising Association (AA) - UK and Warc, digital ad revenue growth for UK news brands will be only marginal this year.

Consumers, meanwhile, grow evermore frustrated by the perceived intrusion of ads in the digital news content they access, which has fueled a rise in ad blocking behavior. News brands have had to respond in various creative ways in order to monetize their digital products.

In order to maintain itself as an attractive proposition for advertisers, Dennis Publishing—owner of the weekly news magazine The Week—sought recently to persuade visitors to its digital properties to turn off ad blockers in order to read content.

The Telegraph moved to a premium subscription service late last year, with exclusive content sitting behind the paywall and “lower value” content placed on the free site.

The Guardian has taken a similar approach, with an ad-supported free content model (albeit with one-off contribution requests) supplemented by a membership option. The latter element of its business plan seems to be working relatively well. It allows readers to subscribe for as little as £5 in order to gain access to special events. And in a recent email to its subscribers and members, as cited by Campaign, Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, spoke of positive results. She stated that its membership plan had attracted 200,000 members, and that it hopes have 1 million members by April 2019.

“Advertising conditions remain highly treacherous, with advertising in The Guardian—which helps pay for our journalism—down £11 million this year,” Viner said. “After responding to lots of feedback from readers suggesting they would be happy to give money to support The Guardian’s journalism, we have also now received more than 160,000 one-off contributions from around the world.”

Bill Fisher

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