Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation

OECD examines the future of news and the Internet


The OECD report "The future of news and the Internet" provides an in depth-treatment of the global newspaper market and its evolution, with a particular view on its economics, the development of online news, related opportunities and challenges and policy approaches.

Below are some highlights from the report. For further information, journalists are invited to contact Spencer Wilson, OECD Media Division ([email protected] or tel. + 33 1 45 24 81 18).

The evolving newspaper publishing industry, its economics and the downturn

  • After very profitable years, newspaper publishers in most OECD countries face declining advertising revenues, titles and circulation. The economic crisis has amplified this downward development.
  • About 20 out of 30 OECD countries face declining newspaper readership, with significant decreases in some OECD countries. Newspaper readership is usually lower among younger people who tend to attribute less importance to print media.
  • The regional and local press are particularly affected and 2009 is the worst year for OECD newspapers, with the largest declines in the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Canada, and Spain.
  • Employment losses in the newspaper industry have intensified since 2008 particularly in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain.
  • However, large country-by-country and title-by-title differences and the data currently do not lend themselves to make the case for “the death of the newspaper”, in particular if non-OECD countries and potential positive effects of the economic recovery are taken into account.


Estimated newspaper publishing market decline in OECD countries, 2007-2009 (in per cent) – Figure 2 in study


The Economics of the newspaper industry

  • On the revenue side, the global newspaper publishing market derives about 57 per cent of its revenues from advertising. The reliance on advertising is extremely high in countries such as the United States.
  • On average, online advertising only accounted for around four per cent of total newspaper revenues in 2009, and fell strongly in 2009. In general, the online revenues of newspapers are miniscule in comparison to total revenues and online revenues of other digital content industries.
  • On the cost side, costs unrelated to editorial work such as production, maintenance, administration, promotion and advertising, and distribution dominate newspaper costs. These large fixed costs make newspaper organisations more vulnerable to the downturns and less agile in reacting to the online news environment.


Contribution of advertising and copy sales to paid-for daily newspaper revenues (Figure 12 in report), in per cent, 2008 or latest year available


Online news: Developments, value chains, business models and actors

  • In some OECD countries, more than half of the population read newspapers online (up to 77 per cent in Korea) but at the minimum 20 per cent read newspapers online. The willingness to pay for online news remains low.
  • For the most part reading news online complements other forms of news reading. Most surveys show that active offline newspaper readers tend to read more news online. Countries such as Korea where offline newspaper reading is less popular than online newspaper reading are the exception.
  • While younger age groups are much more active online news readers, it is usually slightly older groups -- 25-34 year-olds – who are most active in most OECD countries.
  • Despite these findings, the share of people who only read online news is likely to grow rapidly with new generations who start using the Internet early in life. The real concern is that a significant proportion of young people are not reading conventional news at all.


Proportion of individuals reading/downloading online newspapers/news magazines over the Internet for private purposes in per cent of individuals aged 16-74 (Figure 18 in report)


Internet traffic to online news sites

  • In all OECD countries, Internet traffic to online news sites has grown rapidly. About 5 per cent of all Internet visits are related to reading news online, which is a conservative estimate.
  • More recently newspaper websites have seen strong growth in their own pages, with large newspapers reporting several million unique visitors to their pages per month.
  • Search engines and their news services are very important in terms of referring Internet traffic to other online news sources.


The future of news creation and distribution: Opportunities and challenges

  • The impacts of the changing media landscape on news are pulling in two opposite directions.
  1. One extreme is that online and other new forms of more decentralised news will liberate readers from partisan news monopolies which have tended to become more concentrated and to dominate the production and access to news.
  2. The other extreme is that the demise of the traditional news media is with us (partially caused by the rise of the Internet), and with it an important foundation for democratic societies is at risk


Business and policy issues

  • Given the central role of news for democratic societies, the evolutions of news creation and distribution are a matter of public interest. The question is whether and how the production of high-quality and pluralistic news content can be left to market forces alone.
  • In the short-term, some OECD countries have put emergency measures in place to financially help the struggling newspaper industry. Moreover, the  question is currently being debated what potential roles government support might take in preserving a diverse and local press without putting its independence at stake.
  • Support measures and topics being debated include: (i) the improvement or intensification of existing state support policies (direct or indirect subsidies) and an extension to online news providers; (ii) new approaches to the protection of newspaper content, (iii) the relaxation of competition and media diversity laws; (iv) the role of public broadcasters; and (v) the reliability and governance of online news.


Further reading


The future of news and the Internet
This OECD report provides an in depth-treatment of the global newspaper market and its evolution, with a particular view on its economics, the development of online news, related opportunities and challenges, and policy approaches.


Print screen
Newspapers are holding their own in the Internet economy

Larry Kilman, Director of Communications World Association of Newspapers


Print online? 
It is inevitable that online access and digital devices will displace a lot of paper in the long run: Reader’s letter



For further information, journalists are invited to contact Spencer Wilson, OECD Media Division ([email protected] or tel. + 33 1 45 24 81 18).