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Subscriptions and Ads Still Key to Financing Journalism

This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Florian Zandt

While the importance of advertising for the revenue streams of journalistic outlets has decreased, digital and native ads are still seen as two of the three most relevant sources of income for media houses. According to data from a survey conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, most media leaders still rely the most on varying subscription models to get them through the next year though.

On the other hand, events and e-commerce endeavors will likely become less important in 2022 according to the survey participants. The former is easily explainable: With the coronavirus and the new and highly transmissible Omicron variant still very much a key issue in most of the countries around the world, in-person gatherings are probably out of the question for a majority, if not all of the coming year. Crowdfunding, an approach normally taken by smaller, independent publications is also seen to become more important by 17 percent of respondents, up four percent from the same survey conducted at the end of 2019. This form of reader-supported journalism can become a positive force in the media landscape as evidenced by the reporting of publications like ProPublica or the German magazine Krautreporter, but it also has its pitfalls as it can give rise to the spread of misinformation due to its easy accessibility and independence from trusted media houses.

According to estimates by Pew Research Center, digital and print newspaper circulation revenue has surpassed advertising revenue in the U.S. in 2020 with estimates of $11.1 billion and $8.8 billion, respectively. When put into contrast with earlier years, this milestone isn't necessarily a cause for celebration: In 2006, U.S. newspaper trade organizations reported an estimated $49.3 billion in ad revenue with circulation revenue coming in at $10.5 billion.

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