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Report Claims Decline in News Media Earnings Not Google’s Fault via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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New research produced by Accenture and commissioned by Google claims that decline in Western European news industry revenue was largely due to a catastrophic loss of classifieds revenue.

Loss of News Media Revenue

The news industry tends to blame companies like Google and Facebook for their decline in advertising revenue.

I attended the very first Google Zeitgeist Partner Forum conference in 2005, held at Google’s Mountain View headquarters and listened to keynotes from top executives from companies like the New York Times lay the blame for their declining fortunes on Google.

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The loss of advertising revenue in the digital age has been a constant theme for over twenty years around the world and many have pointed to Google as a reason.

But the research report contradicts those claims by providing facts that demonstrate that growth in advertising opportunities are not responsible for displacing traditional advertising.

According to the report:

“…a significant majority (64%) of the growth of online advertising has come from new growth rather than displacing the existing markets of traditional advertising.”

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Classified Ad Revenue is Largely to Blame?

According to the new research, collapse of advertising revenue is to blame for declining news revenue in Western Europe. According to the research, nearly 50% of the income loss is due to the decline of the print classifieds at the news organizations and the rise of third party classifieds.

Illustration of Western European News Media Losses

Graph shows that 44% of the decline in Western European ad revenues was due to a loss of classifieds ad earnings

According to the report:

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“The data is clear: Almost half of the overall decline of newspaper revenue has come not from Search or social advertising, but from the loss of newspaper classifieds to specialist online players.

…The majority of advertising in newspapers was made of classifieds like selling cars and homes, or listing jobs, and births and deaths notices.

These advertisements, or “classifieds,” contributed €9.9 billion – almost a quarter – of newspaper revenues, and newspapers collected 93% of all classified advertising in 2003.

However, by 2019, only 32% of that revenue was going to newspapers, generating just €2.8 billion, with the drop accounting for 44% of newspapers’ total revenue decline over the period.”

Newspaper Classified Business Picked Up By Specialist Sites

According to the report, Western European news organizations lost their classifieds revenue to niche classified sites that targeted specific verticals.

Print newspapers used to be where consumers and businesses used to advertise autos for sale, job openings, apartments for sale, and even garage sales.

Many of those classified announcements moved to websites that specialized in each of those verticals.

The report named real estate sites Scout24 and Rightmove, job site Totaljobs, and automobile classifieds sites Mobile.de, Automobile.it, Bilbasen and Motors.co.uk as the kinds of sites that are largely responsible for siphoning off classifieds ad revenue.

The report also noted that some of the sites are currently owned or used to be owned by the news media sites themselves.

According to the report:

“Newspapers’ dominance of the classified market has been challenged. The predominant competition has been from ‘pure play’ websites – these focus on specific vertical markets. Online providers gained a two-thirds market share of the classifieds market by 2019.

Many of these pure plays are or were formerly owned by newspaper publishers or media groups. This includes Scandinavian classified business Schibsted, Germany’s Axel Springer, and Spain’s pisos.com, Infoempleo.com and autocasion.com operated by Vocento.”

That means that some of the news organizations complaining about loss of classifieds ad revenue are either still earning it or sold off their classified business.

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Although the research report doesn’t explicitly say so, the implication is that the some of blame for the loss of classifieds income is due the actions of the news organizations themselves and some of the complaints about the loss of this business may not have been made in good faith.

News Industry Online Ad Revenue

According to the report, advertising revenue may have declined for print publications (along with their readership) but that online advertising revenue grew from the periods that were researched, from 2003 to 2019.

According to the report:

“…the value of online advertising has grown significantly from €2.2 billion in 2003 to €50.5 billion in 2019, along with growth in all advertising sectors.

But this did not come at the expense of newspaper revenues.”

Are News Organizations Wrong to Blame Google for their Losses?

While this report is about Western European news media, there are interesting facts about Google and Facebook’s role in the decline in Australian news media earnings that may be relevant.

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An Australian commission claims that both Google and Facebook have eaten into news organization’s advertising profits.

According to a report in the BBC:

“…an investigation by the commission into the tech firms’ online advertising dominance, which showed that in 2018 for every A$100 (£56; €65) spent by Australian advertisers, A$49 went to Google and A$24 to Facebook.”

The report makes no mention of how much more revenue Western European news media would earn if Google didn’t enjoy a dominant position in online advertising.

The amount of revenue skimmed off by Google and Facebook is not something that was addressed in the Accenture research report commissioned by Google.

As in any dispute between two parties there are always two sides to every story.

It will be interesting to see how news organizations respond to this research.

Citations

Official Google Announcement

Research: What Really Happened to Newspaper Revenue

Link to Accenture report (commissioned by Google)

Western Europe News Media Landscape Trends 2021 (PDF)

What do you think?

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