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Just published: WAN-IFRA’s World Press Trends 2020-2021

This year’s World Press Trends & Outlook report delves into the challenging year publishers faced in 2020 and where the industry is headed in 2021 and beyond.

Just published: WAN-IFRA’s World Press Trends 2020-2021

One of the many silver linings of the pandemic for publishers has been the ability of their organisations to adapt quickly to this changing environment, says WAN-IFRA. For many, this meant speeding up their digital transformation efforts.

In its just-published World Press Trends Outlook report, publishers told WAN-IFRA that accelerating their digital transformation strategy was the most important change to make.

This year’s edition of World Press Trends allowed publishers to give us their latest insights and data on 2020 and their focus on the year ahead, as well as collecting the latest data from partners, national associations and other sources. Much of the report is based on a comprehensive survey sent to publishers in the late fall focusing on the impact of the pandemic, their forecasts for this year and beyond, and insights on their strategies moving forward.

Here are some of the key findings from the report, according to WAN-IFRA:


  • 44% of respondents said accelerating their digital transformation strategy was the most important change they needed to make moving forward.
  • “Digital transformation” is an overarching strategy for most companies but the specifics of that are increasingly audiences-first, reader revenue, data and product dev. It is no coincidence that the three next most important changes for 2021 mirror those of top investment plans: accelerating reader revenue plans, the same for data analytics, and more tech investment.
  • News executives don’t consider the short-term impact of the pandemic as the biggest risk to their organisation’s future success. Instead, the respondents to our survey say their organisation’s greatest threats are the ongoing decline of news publishers’ share of the advertising market, 30.6%, (in which the pandemic plays a key role naturally) and their organisation’s inability to diversity revenues (21%).

2020 results and pandemic

  • 43% of respondents from our WPT Publishers Outlook survey said their revenues declined by more than 20% “in the last 12 months”; another 7% said theirs declined by more than 10%.
  • On average, overall revenue was down by 11%, publishers reported.
  • However, 17% of publishers reported an increase in revenues last year, according to our Outlook survey, with 11% actually saying revenues were up more than 20%.
  • Digital circulation revenue has been a positive development for many news organisations as publishers report a 26.9% YoY increase in 2020. While that figure is impressive, it’s worth noting that globally the industry is still predominantly dependent on advertising and print revenue: Digital circulation revenue makes up just 6.1% of publishers overall revenue (core revenue streams).
  • According to our Outlook survey, 65% of publishers believe their business will fully recover from the pandemic; 35% don’t.
  • Nearly 60% of publishers (Outlook) say their staff will either work from home or have the option to work from home going forward. Only 5% of our respondents expect to move everyone back to the office and 16% believe they’ll use less real estate going forward.
  • For the first time in our survey, we asked publishers to share their general cost allocation across the business, and editorial was the single largest expense, accounting for just over a third of all costs (33.5%). Print production costs make up just 21.4%.

WAN-IFRA members can download the report for free here. Non-members interested in purchasing the report can contact:

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