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2017: Watershed year

THE EDITOR’S CHAIR: Gary Cullum looks forward to an exciting, but challenging year for news media

“Newspapers’ ongoing role as the engine of original news content relies on it being able to monetise digital audiences” 

David Dinsmore (pictured above)

2017. A watershed year. A year of change, and of further consolidation within the news sector.

It will be a year for more hyper local print-based newspaper launches - as the industry re-invents itself and continues to evolve business models for sustainability and profitability.

Let’s hope too that it’s a year of further stabilisation in printed newspaper sales.

And will it be a year perhaps when any publishers truly bridge the gap between digital and declining print revenues? 

Whatever happens in the next 12 months, it will certainly be a year when digitally printed UK national newspapers reach the Channel Island of Guernsey (see pages 9-10 of January printed PJ for an interview with KP Services new managing director Bill Paterson).

2017 will be a challenging year, but also an exciting year as our news industry continues to explore every possible means of exploiting its strength of brands nationally, and its localness too, with the launch of new products, new branded events, new CRM initiatives and reaching out further to customers via smartphone and tablet. 

Newspapers are uniquely placed to diversify and expand into many areas. To engage with, and build on the trust that exists with their readers.

We must continue to invest in the high quality journalism that sets our news brands aside from the distraction that is social media. But we are fighting a battle, a battle to ensure we are able to continue to invest in quality journalism.

UK local, regional and national news brands play a vital role in civic life. 

As News Media Association chairman Ashley Highfield and vice chairman David Dinsmore say in the foreword to a new report by Deloitte - UK News Media: Engine of Original News Content and Democracy : “Newsbrands act as the public’s watchdog. By scrutinising and holding the powerful to account on behalf of their readers, newspapers underpin the democratic process”

In an era of fake news and social media hype, genuine and reliable newspaper journalism is sought out by the public. More people are reading newspapers in print and digital than ever before - 91 per cent of the adult population each month.

We must not forget that it is UK newspapers that invest in original journalism - far more than any other medium.

But, as Messrs Highfield and Dinsmore point out, in spite of this huge investment by our newspapers, digital platforms and aggregators who invest nothing in news content are reaping the commercial rewards from the newspaper sector’s investment. That’s a huge issue the industry is seeking to address. 

Digital revenues are increasing for news publishers although the increase is not yet large enough to offset the fall in print revenue. In 2015, the sector invested more than £97 million in digital services to continue to equip the sector for the future.

According to the report, all of this means that the monetisation of readers online is currently weaker than the monetisation of print audiences. The vast majority of news media organisations’ revenue (81%) continues to come from print readership, with 12% coming from digital. 

As David Dinsmore told listeners to BBC Radio’s The Media Show: “The sector’s average annual revenue per digital reader is estimated to be approximately £15 currently, compared to around £124 per print reader. With the ongoing shift to digital readership among all audiences and the greater use of digital media by younger audiences, the sector’s ongoing role as an engine of original news content relies on it being able to monetise digital audiences effectively so it can continue investing in quality journalism.”

2017 will indeed be a watershed year.

And PJ will be with you all the way, with its dedicated team following the trends, breaking news and reporting on the big issues in PJ, and online at www.pjnews.co.uk

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