Google has become so big that sometimes it’s difficult to understand just how big it is. It’s on course to do $60 billion in revenue this year, almost all of that from advertising. But how big is that in terms of the media it competes against for ad dollars?
To answer that, Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget presented this slide in his keynote at Ignition 2013 this morning. It shows that Google alone is now bigger than either newspapers and magazines.
In part this is because the print media has suffered such a precipitous decline. But note that Google’s last full year results from 2012 are approaching the historic maximum that all magazines combined achieved back in 2007 before the crash.
It’s won’t be long now, in other words, before Google not only eclipses magazines but also becomes bigger than magazines ever were — even when there was no Internet to compete with.
Newspapers often do not have a long shelf life at your local library and often disintegrate over a long period of time. The Guardian and Observer newspapers have been documenting worldwide news since 1791. If a reader wanted to peruse an old issue and read about life on the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars or the first Wimbledon, suffice to say it would be very hard to locate the original printed version. The Guardian relaunched their digital archive in late 2012, which provides 1.2 million replica pages, 13 million articles and 7,000 photographs. Most newspaper companies do not have such a storied history of content, but selling archived back-issues is good business.
There are no real statistics in the newspaper industry on who provides digital archives and who does not. The largest papers all do, and most offer different payment models to monetize the process and actually make some solid long-term revenue. Digital is growing, and a recent report by the Alliance of Audited Media states that 20% of all online newspapers in the US are digital. Obviously, the entire print sector is not doing too well and there is some debate on how to make money in digital. Some consider paywalls, which allow people to read a few articles for free a month, and then require them to subscribe, and others maintain a fleet of apps. The Guardian presents an interesting case study on how to do something unique.
The Guardian distributes their digital archives from the ProQuest Historical Newspaper program. This is the same company that major papers, such as The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The Times of India and The Jerusalem Post use. Companies can upload replica editions in PDF form to their accounts and develop their own subscription or charging method. The Guardianhas developed some tiered access levels, such as a 24 hour pass for £7.95 or a 1 month subscription for £49.95. Users can browse for content using the advanced search engine, which readily supports finding pictures, articles, or any individual section. Once readers discover the content, they can read a free sample to get a sense for it.
The New York Time, on the other hand, does something completely different while using the same ProQuest platform. They do not have advertisements, pictures, charts, or any illustrations. Consumers actually pay a different department to manually scan and email them out. Articles from 1923 to 1986 are available for purchase at $3.95 each. Articles published before January 1, 1923 or after December 31, 1986 are free, but they count toward the monthly paywall viewing limit. A current Times subscriber, is allowed 100 issues a month.
Aside from ProQuest, there are a number of archival websites available online. The biggest digital newspaper site on the Internet is the for-profit Newspaperarchive.com, with 130 million pages. Newspapers.com, a subsidiary of genealogy-titan Ancestry.com, has 34 million newspaper pages. There is also a stalwart hero, based in New York, that has created a website with 5 million, his story is here.
There are currently 419 national newspapers being published worldwide. There are also around 22,000 local and specialty editions being made on a daily or weekly basis. There does not seem to be a cohesive model for digital archives, as some companies just distribute through their own websites or use third party services. Most newspaper publishers interviewed were actually surprised by the interest in their archival strategies, as it’s something that internally is rarely discussed. In a world of sagging print revenues, investing in a solid archive solution is something all papers should consider. The investment costs of scanners is fairly paltry and only a few computers are needed, while outsourcing the sales gives newspaper companies a fairly low overhead.
Newspapers in the US are on the decline right now and the entire industry is seeing explosive growth via the digital offerings. The New York Times is the current poster child of implementing a solid paywall strategy and seeing the largest gains. Currently, 20% of all newspaper circulation in the US is now digital.
The entire newspaper industry a slight decline by 0.7%, according to a recent poll by Alliance for Audited Media. The saving grace to most the newspaper industry was The New York Times, which saw a total digital subscriber base of 1,865,318 people. It had recently surpassed the USA Today in terms of the increased visibility of its brand.
As explained in this article, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal currently lead the entire digital newspaper segment by a long-shot. They all have an active subscription base of at least 1.5 million people. The competition basically evens out at 300,000.
One of the most interesting aspects about the 593 companies that contributed their data was the decreased interest in Replica Editions, due to the preference of using apps. Replicas are basically the digital mirror images of the printed edition. You see local advertising, crossword puzzles, obituaries, and much more. The digital editions, as found in apps, often have a very image and text heavy format, but are designed for tablets and smartphones. This gives readers an inherent advantage over just visiting the website. Some apps allow the newspaper to be read aloud, or give new abilities to edit the font size, font type, or margins.
Newspaper companies are starting to see dividends by making custom versions of their apps for the Kindle Fire, Nook HD, and Blackberry. The main key to digital growth, is making your content accessible, and all three of those companies employ the same tactics.
It seems that the newspaper industry is fairly even, in terms of the current subscriber base. The real growth is digital, and it will be interesting to see if the next six months see continued elevated growth patterns.