The NAA listed $20.692 billion in yearly advertising revenue for print newspapers, a 9.2% drop from 2010, and $3.249 billion in ad revenue for online newspapers, a 6.8% increase from last year.
Adding $10 billion for circulation revenue, which the NAA does not report, Rick Edmonds of Poynter approximated newspapers to be a $34 billion industry. Edmonds noted Google’s yearly revenue, $37.9 billion, to demonstrate the dire state of the newspaper industry.
Online newspapers also had a particularly weak fourth quarter with only 3.1% growth in ad revenue, compared to growth reported during the first three quarters of 2011.
Despite these low revenue findings, the NAA also previously reported a 2011 growth trend in average monthly visitors for online newspapers.
In a press release, NAA Senior Manager of Communications Marina Hendricks stated that online newspapers received a total of 111 million unique visitors during the fourth quarter, which was the highest number of uniques among the four quarters and an increase of 6 million visitors from Q4 2010.
NAA Senior Vice President for Business Development Randy Bennett said in an interview with Poynter that its methods in determining digital circulation revenue need to be updated, especially with the rise of paywall systems.
Conde Nast seems to have realized the need for more transparency in digital sales with its release of advertising metrics for its tablet editions, reported AdAge Mediaworks. About 10 weeks after each new issue is published, marketers will be informed of the number of tablet subscriptions versus single issue sales, the number of readers that open the issue on their tablets, the number of times each reader opens the issue, and the amount of time each user spends reading it.
Perhaps Conde Nast has taken steps in the right direction to become more of a digital-first news company by using tablet metrics to attract marketers. Commenting on the dramatic decrease in print sales during the first quarter of 2011, Alan D. Mutter of Reflections of a Newsosaur suggested that the primary reason for such losses is that advertisers feel they can reach consumers much more easily, and less expensively, through digital media.
But, he said, veteran print media still have advantages that other digital media do not.
“Newspapers have phenomenal assets that any other business would envy: high-profile brands, large sales forces, unparalleled content-creation capabilities and the power of their existing media to promote new digital products and services,” Mutter said. “But they have to use them or lose them. And they will have to be faster and bolder in the future than they have been for the last five demoralizing and terrifying years.”
As US publishers such as Gannett, Journal Register Company and others continue their extensive efforts to revitalize their newspapers and transform their businesses, the next few quarters will be ones to watch.