This article was first published on François Nel's LinkedIn account and has been republished with permission from the author
This marks my 15th year contributing to the World Press Trends and Outlook reports for WAN-IFRA, the World Association of News Publishers, documenting the industry's twists, turns and ambitions across diverse markets.
These reports capture the evolving landscape of the news publishing industry worldwide.
While the reports have been renamed and the research questions have been reframed over the years, these observations have remained constant:
1. Regardless of economic conditions, it is worth underlining that the industry consistently sees both winners and losers.
In moments of crisis, like the 2008/9 financial downturn or the covid-19 pandemic, organisations with deft, ambidextrous leadership have both sustained delivering community value - and shareholder returns. Our latest report shows this pattern persists.
2. Digital innovation continues to reshape the industry, separating pioneers from the rest.
Consider the scepticism Rupert Murdoch faced when introducing digital subscriptions in 2010. “Rupert’s pathetic paywall” was the Guardian headline over the opinion piece by Jeff Jarvis, who argued that digital advertising networks - rather than reader revenues - would be the key to future success. History often challenges new ideas before embracing them, a trend those leaning into AI might also experience.
3. In every market condition, the capacity to attract, nurture, and retain talent is a critical success factor.
Conversely, organisations that struggle often overlook their teams' growth and learning development, including that of their current and future leaders.
4. Despite a gradual reduction in the industry's share of global advertising revenue, paralleling a decrease in print publishing and shifts in consumer behaviour, the news publishing sector remains significant.
If it were a nation, its revenues of over US$126 billion last year would rank it within the top third globally, surpassing the GDP of Slovakia and closely trailing Morocco. With over 561 million paying subscribers worldwide, the industry's audience would constitute the third largest population globally. The potential for growth and impact continues to be significant.
5. . Press Freedom matters.
Not just to publishers but also to communities, markets, and democracies.
Yes, the news business has always been challenging. And, yes, it might never have been more complex than it is today, but despite the doomsayers, there is still much play for. And our study shows the majority of publishers believe it's 'Game On' and expect double-digit growth in 2024.
François Nel is the reader/associate professor of media innovation and entrepreneurship at University of Central Lancashire, and the editor of WAN-IFRA's World Press Trends and Outlook report.
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