Digital Publishing Reader Revenue
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Print newspapers lead the publisher cost crunch

In the latest wessendenbriefing distributed to senior publishing executives, the challenges confronting print newspapers is laid bare, with surging commodity inflation a clear and present danger. This is overlaid with problems in physical logistics, energy and staff costs – all of which are combining to
create to create a perfect storm for the industry.

On top of the aforementioned challenges, the print newspaper industry is also coming under renewed pressure from the environmental movement for its lack of green credentials (although, as the wessendenbriefing notes, ‘true end-to-end assessments are much more complex than many suggest’).

The net effect on the print newspaper industry is:

• A reduction in print runs and a renewed focus on supply chain waste, whilst converting overseas sales from print into digital.
• An acceleration of the more strategic assessment of the role and dynamics of print (frequency, price and quality) in every brand’s activity.
• An increase in M&A activity, as a number of the major publishers try to offload their print-skewed brands.

The wessendenbriefing points out that the current retreat from print isn’t restricted to newspapers and is also extending into the magazine industry, ‘accelerated by paper costs and availability’. The newsletter also lays out the different ways publishers are tackling the issue, singling out a number of examples of how media brands are adapting.

The UK’s Daily Telegraph, for example, is ceasing print in the Channel Islands and is urging its readers to convert to a digital subscription instead. Overall, digital subscriptions now account for 77% of the publisher’s total subscription base, up from 68% a year ago. However, as the wessendenbriefing points out, the Telegraph’s print subscription average revenue per user (ARPU) of £393 is four times that of its digital equivalent, highlighting the tricky economic balance of converting print subscribers to digital

Other examples highlighted include the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which gave away a free iPad to every print subscriber late last year, as well as tutoring sessions in public venues to help its older readers (the core of their print audience) to make the transition to digital. The publisher plans to close all its print editions this year.

Gannett has also cut many of its Saturday editions in the U.S. – 136 of its regional titles, with another 50 in the pipeline – driving its readers to convert to digital editions on the day of the week when advertising is at its weakest in the U.S. market. That said, print subscriptions still bring in significant cash for Gannett ($1.2bn in revenue compared with about $101m for digital-only subscriptions) once again highlighting the challenging economics of moving subscriptions from print to digital.

Our thanks to Jim Bilton of the wessendenbriefing for allowing us to re-publish key data points and segments within the above story. To receive a sample issue of the wessendenbriefing please email