Newspaper publishing

Newspaper publishers are trying to increase their digital subscription revenues by using paywalls and algorithms which personalise content. This is necessary to ensure that high quality content can be provided, however, the risk of a filter bubbles – caused by the use of algorithms – is a key area of attention.

Playing field

For the first time in 11 years, the growth in digital adverting revenues (+21%) has offset the decline in print adverting revenues, resulting in a market that is stabilising rather than shrinking. This significant increase in digital advertising revenues was driven by a higher usage of programmatic advertising. In line with previous years, the decline in advertising revenues from print has continued in 2018, albeit at a much slower pace. 

On the other hand, the decline in total circulation revenues continues (-0.5%) as digital subscriptions are not yet offsetting the decline in paper subscriptions. Historically, publishers have reported a division of the circulation revenues between print and digital. As a result of increased hybrid subscriptions forms, this division is becoming more arbitrary and the industry is increasingly looking at circulation revenues in their entirety. The rise in hybrid subscriptions is essentially based on consumer’s preferences, but has also been driven by certain publishers offering their print subscribers access to online content in return for a small price increase (often with an opt-out).

What’s new?

Based on the ‘Nederlands Online BereiksOnderzoek’, (a survey of online accessibility), is included in the top 10 of the most visited websites in 2019, which includes websites such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Whatsapp. Research such as that performed by Media:Tijd indicates that a large proportion of Dutch people are used to having access to the (free-of-charge) news very frequently. Budgets for delivering quality content, therefore, continue to remain under pressure and publishers need to continuously demonstrate their added-value. 

Since 2018, more and more partnerships between Dutch media companies have formed, with the objective of improving their service offering, and strengthening the position of Dutch media players in the advertising segment versus that of large international companies. The collective initiative Buy-media was terminated after about a year but NL Profiel, an initiative to combine user data, appears/is perceived/ to be successful and is adding value for advertisers.

Dutch newspaper publishers continue to investigate new ways of increasing digital subscription revenues. A sharp focus on quality articles, user interfaces and optimisations regarding the usage of ‘paywalls’ has had a positive impact on the number of digital subscriptions. Research indicates that there is a willingness to pay for a digital subscription in the Dutch market. Digital subscriptions are, therefore, expected to become much more common in future.

Providing more personalised content is also a way of attracting more subscriptions. Through the use of algorithms, news can be customised to the particular interests of the reader. These algorithms – as used by social media – force and enable Dutch newspaper publishers to improve the user experience, they also provide recommendations and even personalised headlines, newsletters, push messages etc. Controlling the algorithms and managing the impact of potential bubbles is high on the agenda of editorial boards. Although Dutch newspaper publishers are cautious about implementing algorithms of this type, it is expected that the first newspaper publisher to be able to successfully provide personalised content to its readers, will /benefit/make great gains. 

Newspaper (€ millions)

Netherlands Historical data Forecast CAGR%
2023 2019-23
Print advertising 240 218 196 177 169 159 149 140 132 124 -6.0%
  y-o-y growth   -9.2% -10.1% -9.7% -4.7% -6.0% -6.0% -6.0% -6.0% -6.0%  
Digital advertising 35 37 37 44 53 60 63 67 70 73 6.7%
  y-o-y growth   5.7% 0.0% 18.9% 20.9% 13.1% 5.2% 5.1% 5.1% 5.0%  
Total Advertising 275 255 233 221 222 219 212 207 202 197 -2.3%
  y-o-y growth   -7.3% -8.6% -5.2% 0.4% -1.4% -2.9% -2.7% -2.4% -2.2%  
Print circulation 803 770 734 703 673 647 625 606 586 569 -3.3%
  y-o-y growth   -4.1% -4.7% -4.2% -4.3% -3.9% -3.3% -3.1% -3.2% -3.0%  
Digital circulation 72 95 130 157 178 194 205 214 223 230 5.3%
  y-o-y growth   31.9% 36.8% 20.4% 13.7% 9.0% 5.7% 4.4% 4.2% 3.1%  
Total Circulation 875 865 864 860 851 841 830 820 809 799 -1.3%
  y-o-y growth   -1.1% -0.1% -0.5% -1.0% -1.2% -1.2% -1.3% -1.3% -1.3%  
Total 1,150 1,120 1,097 1,081 1,073 1,059 1,042 1,026 1,011 996 -1.5%
  y-o-y growth   -2.6% -2.1% -1.5% -0.7% -1.3% -1.6% -1.6% -1.5% -1.5%  

Source: PwC, NDP Nieuwsmedia. Note: Because we rounded off amounts and percentages throughout this Outlook, tables may not sum to 100%.


Digital advertising revenues have shown significant growth in the last few years. More advanced use of programmatic advertising can enable the industry to increase its relevance to advertisers. Furthermore, news publishers are now actively seeking to broaden their offering to attract wider audiences, gain more knowledge of their consumers, and ensure that they stay on their platforms longer. Nonetheless, threats such as international competition, uncertainty about GPD and the advertising market, and privacy regulations, will impact the industry. Bearing all these circumstances in mind, we expect digital advertising revenues to grow slightly over the coming years.  Given that the advertising revenues in print are expected to continue to gradually decline, the overall revenues coming from advertising are projected to depict a small decline over time. As such, we do not expect the (slight) revenue growth of 2018 to create a tipping point in the overall trend, however we do anticipate the decline being at a slower pace than it has been in previous years. 

We expect digital or hybrid subscription revenues to increase significantly, however we still do not believe that it will fully offset the decline in the paper subscription business. A small, gradual decline (c. 1.0%-1.5%) is, therefore, expected in the coming years.

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Contact us

Kelly van den Muijsenberg

Senior manager, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 31 88