It has taken legacy newspaper publishers a number of years to find their groove in the digital age. Advertising in the traditional paper has declined 40% in recent years and this has prompted everyone to look for alternative means to profits. Some have rolled out successful paywal strategies, while others embrace the metered approach.
The Times and The Sunday Times recently announced a profit for the first time in 13 years. In 2014 the two newspapers made $2.7 million profit, up from last year’s $9.2 million loss. One of the reasons why the Times are doing well, is because Rupert Murdoch spun the newspaper division into its own autonomous entity in 2011 called News U.K. Costs have been reduced, and advertising now brings in only 44% of revenues, while 51% comes from sales.
The Times is not alone in seeing its fortunes improve in recent years. In 2013, the Financial Times, which operates a metered model, saw circulation grow 8% to 652,000 — the highest paid readership in its 126-year history — although print readership continued to fall.
Digital has also boosted profits by 13% to $111 million at The Daily Mail and General Trust, whose free MailOnline is one of the most heavily read sites in the world. On a daily basis they are getting 25,271,874 global reads on average.
The Guardian, which is also free to view and aggressively expanding globally, revenues were up 6.8% and digital revenues up 24%. Meanwhile, the Telegraph, which operates a metered paywall, made profits of $96 million in 2013, up from $92 million the previous year. This was against a background of aggressive cost-cutting and despite a 0.7% fall in revenues, and helped by continued growth in advertising and subscription income.
One of the more interesting things the Guardian has been doing in 2014 is the addition of audio content. The newspaper and Audible came to an agreement where every week the Guardian Audio Edition will hit Audible, and give you a feel for the UK’s book scene. Audible is also sponsoring the Guardian Books homepage, its weekly books podcast, and its books review pages, with co-branded advertising across the newspaper’s website and print edition. The success of this endeavor has prompted the Guardian to expand on their audio ambitions to make mini-podcasts out of each of their featured stories.
Most of these papers have managed to add thousands of new digital readers due to relationships they have established with a number of international distributors. The largest of these, Pressreader currently offers over 600 UK newspapers, which not only appeals to people who read the digital format exclusively, but also business travelers and expats.
Overall, the future of digital newspapers is looking bright. The vast majority of the publishers are now making a profit and the usage of mobile and tablet apps is on the upswing.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.