World Press Trends Outlook: publishers prepare for a period marked by uncertainty

This year’s World Press Trends study makes for grim reading after our optimism previous reports, The mood in the industry has changed, and publishers find themselves in a more unpredictable business environment due to a number of challenges, including high levels of inflation, rising paper and print costs, as well as ongoing changes in advertising markets.

A change in business sentiment is one of the key findings of the new World Press Trends Outlook report. As in previous years, the analysis is based on an online survey distributed to industry leaders. In Fall 2022, 167 news executives from 62 countries participated in the survey – many thanks to them for sharing their insights, results and strategies.

WAN-IFRA also partners with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Zenith for key performance indicators (global revenue and circulation). We work with analytics specialist Chartbeat for audience insights.

Here are some key findings and charts from our new 2022–23 research. WAN-IFRA members can download the full report here.

business confidence takes a blow

The many ongoing challenges and risks have taken their toll in terms of business sentiment, as more than half of our respondents (55.4%) said they were “pessimistic” about the next 12 months. This represents a significant shift from the COVID boom of our previous report, as last year more than 80% said they were optimistic.

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The mood is somewhat more positive when publishers consider their medium-term prospects, as the level of pessimism drops slightly (46.4%) when survey participants are asked about their outlook for the next three years. But there’s also a group of publishers who look to the future with strong positivity: Nearly a third (31%) indicated they are “very optimistic” about where their business will be in three years’ time.

Revenue growth largely driven by developing economies

On the other hand, and despite the pessimistic outlook, publishers are downright bullish about their revenues – and far more so than last year. For 2022, our respondents forecast a 16.4% increase in their revenue compared to 2021. Last year, respondents projected a 7.3% year-over-year increase in revenue.

A closer look at the data reveals that publishers, especially in developing economies, have high expectations for their revenue growth. Companies in these markets expected revenue to rise 24% year-over-year for 2022, while respondents from developed economies said they expected revenue to rise 8% in the same year.

Revenue diversification is on the rise

For their business model, publishers say that advertising and readership revenue are the most important revenue sources, accounting for 47.7% and 35.8% of their earnings, respectively.

Meanwhile, revenue from new types of activities (such as events, contract publishing and e-commerce) accounted for 16.7% of total earnings, up from 13.2% last year. Publishers also said that their revenue coming from new activities increased by 21.5% over the last 12 months, making it the fastest growing area for revenue.

Although declining, print remains an important role: combined, print advertising and print circulation generate more than half (53.5%) of total income seen by our respondents, down from 56.1% last year.

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Editorial and product top areas for spending and investment

As in previous years, editorial and content costs are the largest area of ​​expenditure for news publishers, accounting for 32.4% of total expenditure, roughly the same as last year.

However, print costs have seen a substantial increase: they now account for 19.6% of costs, up from 14.5% last year, most likely a result of rising energy and material costs globally.

In terms of investment areas, our respondents indicated product development and R&D (88%) as their top priority, followed by readership and other revenue streams as well as investment in advertising (all 84%).

Looking Ahead: Focus on AI and Events

Given the current level of focus on new AI tools, it is perhaps not surprising that many publishers see AI as a game changer among new and emerging technologies: more than two-thirds (69%) said that AI will have the biggest impact on their business in the next two to three years. Other technologies that publishers are following closely include 5G (28%) and the metaverse (16%).

As for the future evolution of their business models, publishers expect diversification to continue apace, anticipating new revenue sources to become an even more important part of their revenue structure. Our respondents said they anticipate approximately 24% of their total revenue to come from non-reader and advertising sources over the next 12 months.

Within the category of new revenue sources, events remain the most important area, with nearly a third of respondents in both developing and developed countries highlighting this as a focus activity in the near future. E-commerce, partnerships with platforms and subscription models follow this as other new revenue streams that publishers expect to focus on over the next 12 months.

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Read more and download the full World Press Trends Outlook 2022-2023 report here. Powered by World Press Trends protechmediaContent Management Provider.

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