Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
In a media ecosystem that was severely affected by disruptions due to the coronavirus-induced pandemic during 2020 and 2021, the measurement of hopes and aspirations among the leaders of the industry carries relevance. ‘World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers’ (WAN-IFRA) published a report entitled ‘World Press Trends Outlook 2022-2023’ in March 2023. It carried a description on challenges and opportunities faced by print publications worldwide. The report highlighted a clear distinction in the perspectives of news publishers between developed and developing nations. While the publishers in developed economics expressed a pessimistic view of business in 2023, those from emerging economies recorded optimism.
War between Russia and Ukraine adversely affected the world economy in 2022 and the print media faced huge losses. Mostly three reasons: high inflation, advertising downturn, and raising the cost of newsprint resulted in an unfavorable environment for the newspaper publication business. Since the following year 2023 is marked by a downturn in world economics, news organisations in developing nations tend to be more resilient adopting to the changed business models.
WAN-IFRA conducted a survey during the middle of 2022 among 167 media leaders belonging to 62 countries to prepare ‘World Press Trends Outlook 2022-2023’. Among them, 55.4 percent were pessimistic about the next 12 months, whereas 53.6 percent were optimistic about prospects for the next three years. It suggested that as per respondents’ outlook print news industry will continue to be volatile during 2023-2024 and is expected to calm down between 2024 and 2027.
Analysis of data collected through the survey indicated a few major changes in publication trends in the newspaper industry. First, media in emerging economies is proactive to change from the traditional business models. Earnings from advertisement and circulation accounted 53.5 percent of the total revenue and the media platforms continued to experiment with alternative sources. Revenue generation through subscription of digital editions, events and grants marked as three new avenues for newspaper earnings. Endeavours were carried out with native business development strategies. At the same time print news platforms from developing countries expected 24 percent more revenue than 2021.
Secondly, strengthening the important areas of product development, reader revenue and other revenue sources along with investment in advertisement gained priority. Recruitment of talented creative personnel contributed towards better products, which in turn reduced audience crunch and increased consumer engagement. The creation of interdisciplinary teams for product thinking and product development yielded better results. Many publications benefitted from grants, both from government and non-government sources.
Thirdly, the report raised concern on the growing trend of physical attacks on journalists in developing countries. Weaker public institutions fail to protect freedom of speech. Governments crackdown upon media platforms for unfavorable reporting. About 80 percent of formally reported attacks against journalists across the world remained unsolved, the report indicated.
On the other hand, cyber-attacks also emerged as a grave concern, more particularly in developed countries. Six in 10, about 60 percent of respondents in the survey indicated that media workers of their organisations reported cyber attacks. Gender-based harassment of female journalists continued across all regions.
The report published by WAN-IFRA presents a realistic picture of the status of the ‘Press’ or news publication in the post-pandemic world order. The industry believed that the disruption caused by revenue loss and increase of expenditure is momentary and news publications can confront the situation in long run.
However, a variety of unconventional strategies were engineered to boost both editorial and revenue generation efforts. For example, newspapers in developed nations are increasing their presence in social media to achieve popularity. New products like podcasts, and newsletters are being used to attract sponsorship advertisement revenue. As ‘news’ is the most important ingredient in the ‘newspaper’, collective effort among all the departments in the newspaper establishment is focused to improve the quality of ‘news’.
WAN-IFRA strives to protect the interests of journalists and publishers worldwide. More than 3,000 news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs have registered membership in the organization. Apart, about 18,000 publications affiliated to 60 press organisations spread over 120 nations are associated with its programmes. It was established during the post-second world war in 1948 and continues to “provide its members with expertise and services to innovate and prosper in the emerging media ecosystem.” ‘World Press Trends Outlook 2022-2023’ is expected to guide news publishers to formulate their future-ready strategies in the post-coronavirus-induced pandemic media landscape.
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter by the author circulated on April 7, 2023. https://tinyletter.com/pradeepmahapatra/letters/message-296
It is an open-access content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
The state of news business-Key findings from the “World Press Trends outlook 2022-2023” report