News Media forecasts
The print industry was significantly impacted by Covid-19 in 2020. As restrictions were implemented, advertising revenue declined across numerous revenue sources including classified advertising, SMEs and local advertisers. This impacted both national and local print titles.
In the Republic of Ireland, total investment in print advertising fell by 25.3% to €78.9 million. We estimate that ad revenue across the national titles fell by 23.5% to €65.7 million. There was also a contraction in digital revenue, which we estimate was in the region of €21.1 million, a decline of 13.9%. Overall regional press spends fell by approximately 22%, last year.
We are forecasting a further decline in revenues in 2021, albeit at a much slower rate. The overall print market is expected to decline by 5.3% to €74.7 million, but digital revenue for national titles is expected to increase by 8% this year to €22.8m.
Print advertising revenue fell by 14.6% to £9.9 million (€11.1m) in Northern Ireland last year. Revenue would have been more severely impacted were it not for significant advertising activity from the UK government. We are predicting further declines in 2021, with advertising investment in print expected to fall by 8.1% to £9.1 million (€10.2m).
As mentioned earlier in this report, the most important industry development this year is the work being carried out by the Future of Media Commission. The timing of the Commission’s work coincides with developments around the world regarding how news should be paid for by online platforms – Google and Facebook in particular.
Developments in Australia surrounding the introduction of its News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code have been watched carefully by governments across the globe.
The purpose of the Australian code is to force technology platforms to pay publishers for news content made available or linked on their platforms. The code’s main provision is that platforms should negotiate with publishers in good faith, and where parties cannot come to an agreement, an arbitration panel will intervene.
The introduction of the code created a lot of noise and posturing on all sides, including Facebook temporarily blocking news content on its platforms in Australia. This action damaged Facebook’s reputation but did enable it to secure some ‘last minute’ concessions such as the inclusion of a two-month mediation period.
Critics of the Australian solution say that it favours big publishers and that local media will lose out. The Future of Media Commission needs to address this issue in its recommendations here. Ireland’s local publishers are an important part of the media landscape, but they are struggling to stay afloat.
The EU has various pieces of related legislation in the works (such as the Copyright Directive, Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act) which could be amended to include aspects of the Australian reforms if members wish. The publication of the Commission’s report this summer could be useful stimulus in this regard.