Is Print Newspaper Advertising Becoming an Irrelevance?
The release of the monthly ABCs usually means bad news for the newspaper industry.The latest set, for January 2012, were no better, showing year on year falls across the board. The worst news was reserved for The Independent, which saw a staggering 37% year on year fall in its circulation. The Guardian and The Times fared little better with falls of 18% and 11% respectively. Even the mighty Mail saw a 6% drop in year on year circulation.Advertising revenues are on the decline too - unsurprising given falling circulations. Paywalls and premium mobile versions are proving to be a revenue boon for some, most notably the FT, but not for all - the results of The Times paywall experiment hasn't seen competitors rushing to follow suit.You couldn't be blamed for thinking that print newspapers were becoming an irrelevance to advertisers. Surely budgets should be following audiences and migrating online rather than being channeled into a sector with dwindling audiences?Perhaps, but there are many signs that the era of print newspapers isn't over. Not yet, at least.In the first instance, some sectors of the newsprint industry are in rude health. Take i, the 20p stablemate to The Independent, which saw its circulation rise by 82% to 243,000 between January 2011 and January 2012. Likewise, The Metro and the Evening Standard are thriving against this generally negative backdrop, showing there is still a desire for news in print albeit it in an easily consumed and free or budget format.Secondly, the latest figures from the National Readership Survey show that falls in readership have not been as marked as falls in circulation in many cases. For example, the figures for the last quarter of 2011 showed a slight rise in the readership of The Guardian (+2%) and only a small fall in the readership of The Independent (0.38%), although falls in the readership of the Mail, the Telegraph and Times were largely in line with circulation falls.Of course, these specific readership results may just be statistical anomalies but perhaps the figures suggest that decreasing frequency of purchase may be more of a factor in newspaper circulation declines that the fall in the overall newspaper reading audience. Or put another way, many of us still like to read newspapers, we're just doing it less often.But the third and most influential evidence in our argument in favour of newsprint is that ads in newspapers are still highly influential. A recent Deloitte study found that 60% of people had visited a website as a result of seeing it advertised in print - just 4% behind the most influential medium, TV, and 10% ahead of online advertising.The fact is that over 19m of us still read a national daily newspaper and 16m still read a national Sunday newspaper - in both cases, that's c1/3 of the UK adult population. So although its numbers are in decline, in terms of delivering messages to mass audiences in a highly influential way, newspaper advertising is still second to none.