40% global internet users read news online, reveals Wan-Ifra’s World Press Trends Report 2016 survey

According to the World Press Trends 2016 report, an annual report published by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (Wan-Ifra), more people are reading news media content than ever before. Yet that measurement of success is being put to the test daily as publishers increasingly focus on delivering trust, value and true engagement – three ingredients needed to sustain their business in the face of fierce competition.

20 Mar 2017 | By Rahul Kumar

The World Press Trends report not only analyses the vast amount of survey data, figures and insights from more than 70 countries, it crucially adds global, regional and national context to emerging trends and issues.

“If you just look at recent events, we are all reminded that trust in news media is and will be a universal, global issue,” said Vincent Peyrègne, CEO, Wan-Ifra. “There are common issues and common challenges, but also common opportunities. Despite the fact that every market and region has its own, distinct dynamics and issues, there is not one media company from any corner of the world which cannot learn from another publisher today. That is the essence of what World Press Trends provides.”

For the first time, the World Press Trends report features a snapshot of individual country reports, and the challenges and opportunities facing those markets, such as the US, India or Japan.

According to the report, 2.7 billion adults read newspapers in print globally. It estimated that at least 40% of global internet users read newspapers and news media online. Audiences, not advertising, continue to contribute the majority of revenues for news media companies.

The survey was conducted with the help of national newspaper and news media associations and with support from global data suppliers PwC Media and Entertainment Outlook 2016, Zenith Optimedia, IPSOS, ComScore, the Pew Research Center, and ITU.

Highlights of World Press Trends 2016  

World Press Trends data showed that newspapers generated an estimated USD 168 billion in circulation and advertising revenue in 2015. Ninety billion dollars (53%) came from print and digital circulation, while USD 78 billion came from advertising.

Together with magazines, newspapers are the third largest among all cultural and creative industries, and the two sectors are creating around 2.9 million jobs worldwide. Total global newspaper revenues fell 1.2% in 2015 from a year earlier and are down 4.3% over the last five years.

More than 2.7 billion adults are reading newspapers in print globally. Digital newspaper readership is growing, and in some of the most developed economies, readership on all digital platforms has surpassed the number of readers in print.

Mobile-first vs mobile-only

The worldwide smartphone market saw a total of 1.4 billion units shipped in 2015, making it the top year for shipments on record, with around 30% of the world's population owning a smartphone today.

Mobile growth represents a huge opportunity for newspapers and other news brands. In the US, more than 80% of people are engaged with newspaper digital content, and more than 70% of Australians and Canadians read a newspaper via digital device. News brands reach 70% of the UK population across online, tablet and mobile. According to the Newspaper Association of America, more than half of the US newspaper digital audience uses only mobile devices (smartphones or tablets) for their newspaper digital content.

According to comScore, the top 10 digital media in the US have on average 37% of their audience visiting only via mobile and another 31% visiting via both mobile and desktop. In markets such as France, Germany, Japan, Australia and Canada, more than one third of the adult population use mobile to access news media content – and growth is rapid.

Desktop audience numbers continue to fall. Time spent using smartphones now exceeds web usage on computers in the US, Canada, the UK and Italy.

The growing number of smartphones and tablets is also boosting the use of data-intensive applications such as video, and Cisco is projecting a 66% annual increase of mobile data usage by 2019. Among online 16-34s, almost 95% watch video, and even among the oldest group tracked by the Global Web Index (the 55-64s), eight out of ten engage with video. Eight to nine billion videos per day are watched on Facebook, eight billion per day on Snapchat, four billion a day on Youtube.

App usage in the US represents 75% of mobile engagement. The top five apps capture 88% of a user’s app time, according to comScore. However, user time on smartphones is largely concentrated on social media platforms and entertainment brands.

According to comScore, several major traditional print publishers experienced online visitor gains of more than 20% in 2015, led by the growth of mobile. The Washington Post had 78% year-over-year audience growth, and Dow Jones & Company (publisher of The Wall Street Journal) had growth of 58%.

Digital circulation revenues grow

Print unit circulation increased +4.9% globally in 2015 from a year earlier and shows a five-year growth of +21.6%. This is largely the result of circulation growth in India, China and elsewhere in Asia, as expanding literacy, economic growth, and low copy prices boost newspaper consumption. India and China together accounted for an astonishing 62% of global average daily print unit circulation in 2015, up from 59% in 2014.

Circulation rose +7.8% in Asia in 2015 from a year earlier; it fell -2.4% in North America, -2.7% in Latin America, -2.6% in the Middle East and Africa, -4.7% in Europe and -5.4% in Australia and Oceania. Over five years, newspaper print unit circulations rose +38.6% in Asia but fell elsewhere: -1.2% in the Middle East and Africa, -1.5% in Latin America, -10.9% in North America, -23.8% in Europe, and -22.3% in Australia and Oceania.

Paid digital circulation revenues continue to grow at double-digit rates, and have increased 30% in 2015 and 547% over five years. With revenues of more than USD 3 billion, digital circulation is now starting to make up for lost print circulation revenues in many markets. Amongst online news users – as opposed to the entire population – about one in five pay for online news in the countries studied.

In the most advanced markets, especially regional and local ones, sales of print products are stabilising as an important element of a larger product mix. Many successful print products are smaller, community- and interest-focused, and follow the needs and habits of various specific audiences.

Print still pays, with diversification

As mentioned previously, in 2015 the industry made USD 90 billion from print and digital circulation, while USD 78 billion came from print and digital advertising. Global newspaper market figures show that more than 92% of all newspaper revenues still come from print. The seven biggest newspaper markets are still the United States, Japan, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, India and Brazil, commanding more than half of global newspaper revenues and about 80% of global daily unit circulation.

While digital advertising still represents a small part of overall newspaper revenue, the industry was hoping to grow it as a significant source of revenue in the future. However, its growth has declined to a CAGR of less than 10%. It increased by 7.3% in 2015 and 51% over five years, according to PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2016-2020.

The main benefactors of digital ad spending continue to be social media and technology companies. Google takes the biggest share, USD 67 billion, which includes Google Search and YouTube revenues. Google has recently introduced deep links for mobile apps, in order to make mobile content accessible during searches. Additionally, it is focusing on improving its revenues from YouTube’s video display ads and its programmatic ad platform. In 2015, around USD 13 billion (80% of the total) of Facebook’s advertising revenue came from mobile, with much of its recent growth coming from its native mobile apps. In China, Tencent and Baidu, the leading social platform and search engine respectively, contributed 56% of ad revenue growth among the major companies on the online market.

While total internet advertising revenues reached USD 170 billion in 2015, the full potential of the sector remains unfulfilled, as consumers turn to ad blocking to overcome their frustration with ads’ impact on page loading times and data consumption. More positively, programmatic advertising has grown rapidly, with more than half of digital ads in mature markets now traded automatically – opening the way to better targeting of premium ads. While automated trading can definitely be a huge benefit for media owners, consumers and advertisers alike, this is another example where we as an industry need to inject qualitative measures into the algorithm: trust, context and design.

According to the latest report from PageFair, at least 419 million people (22% of the world’s 1.9 billion smartphone users) are blocking ads on the mobile web. Ad blocking on the mobile web grew by 90% globally in 2015. Early adopters are now blocking ads on apps and walled-garden platforms such as Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, and Apple News as well.

TV takes biggest bite of advertising

According to data from Zenith Optimedia, television continues to maintain the largest share of global advertising revenues at just under 37%, followed by desktop and mobile internet with almost 30%, newspapers with 12.7%, magazines with 6.5%, outdoor and radio with around 7%, and cinema with 0.6%.

Print advertising worldwide declined -7.5% in 2015 and declined -24% over five years. Since it began in the mid-1990s, internet advertising (both desktop and mobile) has risen principally at the expense of print. Desktop and mobile Internet advertising grew 18.7% in 2015 and 102% over five years.

Print newspaper advertising increased in 2015 only in Latin America, at a modest rate of 0.3%, but fell in all other regions: -15.5%  in Australia and Oceania, -9.7% in Asia and the Pacific, -7.2% in North America, and -6.2 percent in Europe.