Reports on declining profits and receding subscriber numbers in the newspaper industry have been recurring the last couple of years. As print ad sales decline, subscription revenues – particularly digital – play an increasingly important role. How well have the Nordic newspaper industries fared in the current shift from print to digital?
The newspaper industry has experienced a rough patch the last two decades with digital media cannibalizing print sales, and global giants such as Google and Facebook competing for ad sales. The Nordic market is no exception, judging by the Q4 2019 company reports. In Sweden and Norway for example, Schibsted reported a 35% EBITDA decline YOY for their News Media segment – due to decreasing advertising revenues.
A response to the increasing pressure has been consolidation: In Finland, media conglomerate Sanoma recently announced its purchase of 15 newspapers from Alma Media. In Sweden, Hall Media is reportedly in the process of being sold to a Norwegian bidder. These are among the latest instalments of the ongoing consolidation trend in the media market, driven by changing consumer behaviour and increasing competition.
Attracting the digital reader is more important than ever in the daily news business – both in terms of subscriptions and ad revenues. Media expenditure on text in Sweden, however, indicates that the shift from print to digital is far from complete.
Zooming in on Sweden, households spent on average around 140 SEK per month on printed/digital text-based media (i.e. newspapers, books, magazines – subscriptions and single purchases) during 2019. However, only around a fourth is spent on digital text-based media. When it comes to household spend on text media, analogue still trumps digital.
However, American media power houses may lead the way forward. For example, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are well on their way in the journey towards digital subscriptions. NYT hit a milestone in Q4 2019 where digital subscription revenue outweighed that of digital advertising, for the first time ever. Meanwhile, WSJ reported having passed 2 million digital subscribers.
The question remains whether the Nordic market will see the same development, allowing actors to enjoy this surge in revenue related to digital subscriptions? Mediavision can now provide a full year (2019) report of media revenues and expenditure including text-based media.