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For Some, Digital Revenues a Sorely Needed Boon

With print advertising on the run, digital continues to rise.

Bill Mickey By Bill Mickey
11/29/2011 -11:07 AM


As far as inflection points go, this is a good one. In a Reuters story, the Financial Times Group says it's expecting content revenues (subscription and single copy sales) to at least equal, and possibly overtake, print advertising revenue for the first time this year.

During the London portion of the Reuters Global Media Summit, FT CEO John Ridding acknowledged the rough advertising climate, which has put extra pressure on digital to perform. The FT's online operation, says the report, now accounts for 30 percent of its revenues.

In the first half of this year, the group boosted profits by 10 percent. Digital subscriptions are the main driver, and were up 34 percent during the period. The FT's web app, famous for ditching Apple's app store, reached its one millionth registrant in mid-November.

It's still difficult to determine the overall size of the business, however. In other words, quickly rising digital content sales is all well and good, but is it adequately covering the decline of print ad revenues?

Meanwhile, The Economist, in which the FT Group has a fifty percent stake, says it reached 100,000 paid, digital-only circ by the half-year point—twice the amount compared to the same period last year.

Elsewhere, in what could be an aberrant blip or a sign of the times, The Atlantic says its digital advertising revenue beat print ad revenue for the month of October—51 percent of ad sales to 49 percent. That 49 percent is still a record-setting amount, however, says the magazine.

Moreover, The Atlantic's digital ad revenue for October is up 89 percent over last year and 37 percent better year-to-date.

All of this is in the face of a sharp drop in third-quarter print advertising. According to PIB numbers, consumer magazine ad pages fell 5.6 percent in the quarter compared to the same period in 2010. That decline erased the gains for the year, which is now down 1.1 percent for the first 9 months.


Bill Mickey is editor of Audience Development and Folio: magazines.

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