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Newspaper Publishers’ Revenues Continue Decline as Innovative and Futuristic Digital Grows in 2K

The operating revenue of Canadian newspaper publishers declined to just under $2.0 billion in 2022, down 7.9% from 2020, when the survey was last conducted. While this drop was smaller than in 2020, the industry continued to see falling circulation sales and significant competition for advertising spending.

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Newspaper Publishers' Revenues Continue Decline as Bold and Futuristic Digital Grows in 2K

Newspaper Advertising Sales Grim Future

In 2020, newspaper publishers’ advertising sales, their biggest source of revenue, fell significantly (-37.3%) from 2018, largely because of weakened demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite there has been some recovery in advertising demand, advertising sales grew marginally (+1.3%) from 2020 to 2022, reaching $951.0 million. From 2020 to 2022, print advertising sales declined 9.8% to $613.6 million. Conversely, digital advertising sales grew significantly, increasing 30.4% to $337.4 million.

Newspaper publishers' operating revenue continues to fall despite digital sales growth in 2022

Print circulation sales continued their decline, falling 12.0% from 2020 to 2022 to $459.7 million. While digital circulation sales (+65.5%) showed strong growth, reaching $131.1 million, the increase was not enough to offset the decline in print circulation sales. Overall, total circulation sales were $590.8 million in 2022, 1.8% lower than in 2020.

Expenditures on salaries, wages, commissions and benefits (+0.3%) remained relatively flat over the 2020-to-2022 period. Newspaper publishers spent $785.3 million on salaries, wages, commissions and benefits, representing 41.2% of the industry’s overall expenditures.

Newspapers Cost Cutting Measures

Faced with declining revenue, many newspaper publishers have attempted to cut costs, but the pullback in operating expenses (-3.4%) from 2020 to 2022 did not keep pace with the operating revenue decline (-7.9%). As a result, the industry’s operating profit margin fell from 7.0% in 2020 to 2.5% in 2022.

Despite producing fewer print copies and relying more on digital circulation, newspaper publishers faced cost management challenges in 2022, notably the rising cost of newsprint.

Newspaper Publishers' Revenues Continue Decline as Bold and Futuristic Digital Grows in 2K

The Pandemic Effect on Advertising

In 2020 and 2021, newspaper publishers used pandemic support measures, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. By 2022, some of these measures were no longer available, which partly contributed to the operating revenue decline. Newspaper publishers may also qualify for other programs, such as the Canadian Journalism labour tax credit, which covers a portion of salary costs for eligible employees. Quebec also introduced a labour tax credit that provides additional support to the federal program. Other existing programs include the Canada Periodical Fund and the Local Journalism Initiative.