The likes of Google and Facebook are often cited as the reason for declining newspaper revenue. A research study commissioned by Google is now pushing back against that belief and pins declining newspaper revenue on the loss of classified print ads.

Western Europe News Media Landscape Trends was Google commissioned and published by consulting firm Accenture. The preface says Google did not provide additional data for the analysis, which looks at publications in:

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.

Newspaper revenues in those countries have declined 38% between 2003 (€42.6 billion) and 2019 (€26.5 billion). This was primarily due to a 44% drop in newspaper classified:

These small, often pay-per-line advertisements contributed €9.9 billion – almost a quarter – of newspaper revenues in 2003. But by 2019, newspaper classifieds generated just €2.7 billion

The primary competition is now from “pure play” websites that “focus on specific vertical markets,” like real estate, automotive, and job advertisements. 

Print circulation and display advertising did fall, but it was slightly offset by online alternatives. Meanwhile, online advertising has grown from €2.2 billion in 2003 to €50.5 billion in 2019. This report says that growth has come from new sources rather than taking existing newspaper revenue. 

The last point made in the report is that more people are paying for news with a 307% increase in digital circulation from 2013 to 2018. Print subscriber numbers also stayed relatively stable during that period. 

Across all news publications globally, the fall in paid print subscriptions has been more than offset by growth in paid digital news subscriptions. Between 2013 and 2018, the number of paid print subscriptions fell approximately 3 million while paid digital subscriptions increased by 26 million.

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