On Your Mark: Newspapers Perform

In the competitive sprint for advertising dollars, the online community is still outpaced by the newspaper sector, despite the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s recent report that its members had thoroughly thumped daily newspapers in total ad revenues. But a closer look shows that newspapers are not trailing at all.

What the report omitted was the word “print.” The IAB is comparing its 2010 revenues ($2.2 billion) to print advertising for daily newspapers, which was $2.1 billion last year. But the newspaper versus Internet contest is misleading. Despite the name, newspapers have become a large part of the Internet (maybe they should be called neo-newspapers), creating innovative online brands that Internet browsers would not even associate with their newspaper corporate owners. For example, Torstar runs brands such as Workopolis and TravelAlerts.ca , while Postmedia has more than 80 destination websites.

Add Canadian newspapers’ online revenues (another $214 million), and the sector is still ahead. Also most Canadian newspaper groups have holdings that include community weeklies in addition to dailies, a sector that produces significant revenue, so it makes sense to tally them. For 2010, the community papers earned $1.13 billion in print revenues and another $32.7 million online.

Growth rates are soaring for newspaper online initiatives as well. Newspapers Canada recently began tracking mobile revenues earned by dailies, a figure that has shot up by more than 50 per cent between the first and second quarter (to $850,000 in the last three-month period).

The IAB also claimed it was second only to TV in total revenues. TV Bureau statistics for 2009 show that newspapers (daily and community combined) accounted for 30.2 per cent of the whole advertising pie, slightly ahead of TV at 29.3 per cent. Those figures don’t even include newspaper online revenues.

This phony rivalry is like the NHL, where most of the teams are based in the US, but most of the players were raised in Canada. Under their IAB jerseys, many members are actually skating for the newspaper team. At least pundits have stopped talking about old versus new media which simplifies the terms down to a ridiculous level. After 10 years of existence, the Canadian New Media Awards finally changed its name to the Digi Awards.

Newspapers, as messengers of news, opinion and controversy, are used to being targets themselves. Unfortunately the jabs can come from within our ranks. We occasionally receive queries from former journalists looking for a few statistics to add to a gloomy speech about the future of the industry. “How bad is the circulation decline?” they ask. In fact, once again print numbers only tell part of the story.

Readership figures more accurately show that 78 per cent of Canadian adults read either a print or online newspaper each week (2010).

The newspaper industry has had its share of challenges during this period of technological upheaval. But they’ve gone from ignoring the Internet to embracing it and morphing into news and information entities that are vital. In this country, they’re lean, fit competitors. Challengers? On your mark.


By Susan Brophy Down,
Managing Director, Dailies, Newspapers Canada.