The events of 11 September confirmed newspapers' place in society.
Whereas endlessly repeated (and often badly edited) TV images could be
too brutal to take in, the world turned to newspapers for information,
comment and comfort. Suddenly, newspapers were a million miles away from
being written off as dinosaurs blundering about in a multimedia age in
which they had no place.
When the world slowly emerged out of shock, there was no mistaking the
facts in the cold, hard light of day. Newspaper ad revenues are falling,
although some are falling more sharply than others. In the Netherlands
and Denmark combined adspend for display and classified have slumped
back to pre-1995 levels - Germany's adspend has been on a non-stop
downward spiral since then. Yet others are performing better. The UK's
revenues from newspaper ad sales rose considerably, by more than $2 billion, from 1995 to 2000. And Italy too, never renowned for its
plethora of newspaper fans, also experienced steady growth (see
Like any other medium at the moment, newspapers are experiencing jittery
times. Murdoch's London HQ of News International is rumoured to be
losing staff across the board due to increasing economic pressures. But,
like many of its conglomerate counterparts, News International had
attracted criticism for being a bit on the flabby side.
Should newspapers have long-term concerns about their survival? Mike
Waterson, the chairman of the World Advertising Research Centre, doesn't
think so. He says: "The short-term future for the European newspaper
business is inevitably linked to the economic outlook for the individual
European economies. In most cases this means a relatively harsh
operating environment is likely over the next 12 months. The longer-term
outlook for advertising expenditure as a whole is good. Ad expenditure
continues over long periods to increase as a share of GDP almost
However, Waterson is cautious about one key revenue stream for newspaper
publishers: classified ads. "The long-term outlook for newspapers is
clouded by the uncertain future for classified advertising," he says.
"Will all or part of it go electronic? So far, the newspapers seem to be
holding their own against specialist website operators, but the future
This has been the biggest challenge for newspapers: why would anyone buy
a newspaper when they can access the news for free on a website? Six
years ago, when the web came to life as another medium, there was a
sudden outbreak of largely paranoid conferences targeting print media
Their main agenda was trying to work out how they could keep from going
under by diversifying their output to include an electronic stream. The
hurdle they faced was how to make money from it.
One newspaper has shown how it's done. The Swedish daily Aftonbladet
broadened out its offering with Aftonbladet.se, which is that rare
entity - an online newspaper which makes money. The paper's site is the
fifth most popular site in Sweden, after all the usual suspects such as
Microsoft-owned sites. Sweden can also boast that both Aftonbladet.se
and Expressesn.se are among the country's most popular 25 sites. With
the exception of the BBC in the UK, most European media owner brands
don't even come close to this.
As Scandinavian countries have been setting the pace not only in terms
of the websites' sophistication but also in terms of surfing patterns,
many other newspapers from across Europe could take a leaf out of their
book to see what makes it so sticky.
Just as for other media, attracting and retaining advertising is an
ongoing challenge. Rather than rest on their laurels, newspapers across
Europe have been rising to the challenge. Scandinavia, again, has
spawned some of the most innovative ideas. Dagens Nyheter, for instance,
gained competitive advantage by committing to running advertisers' ads
up to one month after the campaign period was over if they had not met
their targets. It has also helped the newspaper to fill up space during
the slow summer months, as well as help to combat the dent in sales
brought about by the introduction of Metro.
Metro has been one of the biggest threats to paid-for newspapers across
Europe, delivering to advertisers upmarket, educated commuters who have
not been in the habit of buying newspapers.
The success of Metro in Italy has surprised many of the country's media
planners and buyers, who did not think it would take off there, where
average commuter rides are shorter than in other European cities. But it
is part and parcel of newspapers coming into vogue in the country,
offering creative colour solutions to designer clothes brands, which
were formerly big spenders in magazines.
This kind of creative thinking shows the skill of many newspapers to
adapt to a changing environment, where the ability to keep up with what
advertisers want is paramount to survival.
NEWSPAPER DISPLAY AND CLASSIFIED ADSPEND USDOLLARS (million)*
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Denmark 946 934 882 914 832 732
Finland 658 637 603 642 659 620
France 2,495 2,488 2,219 2,351 2,550 2,357
Germany 10,814 10,310 9,248 9,579 9,391 8,678
Italy 1,118 1,257 1,279 1,346 1,842 1,858
Netherlands 1,700 1,755 1,629 1,801 1,803 1,645
Norway 635 738 700 672 646 641
Spain 1,489 1,512 1,382 1,478 1,633 1,564
Sweden 1,162 1,206 1,094 1,129 1,059 1,019
UK 5,361 5,579 6,368 6,980 7,240 7,611
*At current prices and exchange rates. Source: WARC, European
Advertising and Media Forecast.