World Press Trends Outlook 2022-2023 Report: Key findings

With the rise of AI and events business, publishers are presented with new opportunities for growth. Despite concerns about their business prospects, publishers can explore these emerging trends to stay relevant and expand their reach in the market.

In 2022, the global economic stability and news publishers’ businesses were affected by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and other challenges. The news business faced collective pressures from high inflation, advertising downturn, and rising costs of newsprint.

WAN-IFRA’s latest “World Press Trends Outlook” study surveyed 167 media leaders from 62 countries to assess the state of the world’s press and expectations going forward. The 2022-2023 report presents a ‘more sobering’ read compared to the previous year’s optimistic report, despite some publishers expressing long-term optimism.

Here are the key highlights that we picked from the report.

55.4% of publishers are pessimistic about their short-term prospects due to global challenges, including Russia’s war against Ukraine, inflation, and the energy crisis.
At the same time, the rise in newsprint costs is forcing publishers to consider raising cover prices or reducing the number of pages, which could lead to decreased demand. However, despite the current challenges, 53.6% of publishers expressed optimism for the next three years.

Interestingly, publishers from emerging markets were found to be more optimistic than those from developed countries, with developing countries projecting revenue growth of 24% compared to 2021. The survey also suggests that more optimistic publishers tend to be more adaptable and less reliant on traditional revenue streams like print circulation and advertising.

While print revenue and advertising still generate more than half (53.5%) of total income for publishers in developed markets, they are increasingly exploring other revenue streams.
Digital subscriptions have been successful for many publishers, with some expanding beyond their domestic markets, such as The Athletic’s expansion into Spanish-speaking marketsPublishers are also diversifying their income sources to reduce reliance on a single source, with events, grant funding, contract publishing, and e-commerce emerging as promising options.

In addition, the report highlights that despite COVID-19 prompting the shift to virtual eventshybrid event strategies that combine in-person and online formats are likely to stay.

Additionally, grant funding is playing a significant role, especially in supporting local news and climate reporting.

The relationship between publishers and tech platforms is uneven, with 45% of respondents saying it has improved in the past year, while 24% disagree.
Tech platforms like Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and Microsoft have a significant influence on digital publishing, but media outlets have limited control over their distribution.

At the same time, the ongoing tech layoffs and Twitter’s recent meltdown further complicate matters. While media outlets are making progress with digital development and trying new platforms like TikTok and Patreon, there is still more work to be done on digital transformation. The BBC, for example, has recently established a presence on TikTok after initially opposing it.

Decision-makers in media organizations believe that they need to focus on product development, revenue streams, and data analytics.
According to the report, the top priority for media outlets is to focus on reader revenue and other revenue sources, followed by product development and R&D, and advertising investment. To achieve successful product development, media outlets need to invest in interdisciplinary teams and recruit new talent to work towards a common goal. The report cites The Washington Post, which launched an interactive summary for their subscribers as an example of successful product thinking.

Publishers are also looking for new revenue streams, and the ongoing expansion of publisher podcasts and newsletters offers a new platform for increasing sponsorship and ad sales. The report notes that podcasts are the third fastest area of growth after Connected TV Advertising and Paid Search. Therefore, media outlets need to find additional advertising solutions as they work to increase and develop these revenues.

Last but not least, investing in data analytics and intelligence is another key area for media organizations. With the shift towards an environment without cookies, data analytics and intelligence will become even more critical for publishers. First-party data will be essential for media outlets to inform their product, subscription, and other initiatives. According to the report, first-party data gives publishers the chance to have a direct relationship, and control pricing, content, and dialogue with readers without intermediaries.

AI is making its way into the media industry, offering numerous possibilities for content creation and distribution, however, there are still ethical concerns that need to be addressed.
Artificial intelligence is becoming a part of different fields and in the media industry especially. For example, Full Fact is developing automated fact-checking tools that a global network of newsrooms and fact-checkers will be able to use.

However, along with the many opportunities AI brings, there are also ethical concerns that publishers need to address. As AI continues to advance, newsrooms, policymakers, and technologists need to grapple with issues such as bias, privacy, and regulation to ensure its responsible and ethical use in the media industry.

Journalists face physical attacks in developing countries, while online harassment and cyber-attacks are a global concern.
Unfortunately, physical attacks on journalists continue to be a significant issue in many developing countries. As the reports pinpoints, in contrast to developed countries, where freedom of the press is relatively well-protected, the situation is different in emerging nations where public institutions tend to be weaker, and investigations into attacks against journalists are often inadequate. As a result, over 80% of attacks on journalists, including murder, remain unsolved globally. In 2022, the Russian war against Ukraine led to an increase in physical attacks and murders of journalists, with at least 15 deaths recorded.

To continue, in developed countries, cyber-attacks pose a significant threat to the media industry, with 60% of respondents reporting that their employer had been targeted. Additionally, online harassment of female journalists is a pervasive issue across all regions.

The report urges action to address threats to press freedom. It recommends strengthening public institutions, improving investigations into attacks on journalists, protecting against cyber-attacks, and supporting female journalists who face online harassment.

Download the full report here.