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Tough times for independent publishers as revenues fall 30pc

Jonathan Heawood 2022Average revenues for small independent news publishers have fallen by more than 30pc in the past 12 months, a new report today reveals.

The Public Interest News Foundation has its annual Index of Independent News Publishing report, based on a survey of 73 publishers with a turnover of less than £2m.

It shows that revenues, audience and staffing in the sector have all fallen significantly since the findings of the 2023 report.

Average revenues for small publishers are currently running at £62,000 compared with £89,000 in 2023 – a drop of 30.3pc.

The report also shows that while the average small publisher employed the equivalent of 2.9 full-time employees last year, this has now fallen to 2.

And average online audiences have fallen by more than 60pc, down from 860,000 unique users in last year’s report to 344,000 now.

Advertising now makes up 59pc of revenues –  up from 52pc last year – while the report found a “positive correlation” between email newsletters, podcasting and revenue.

And while print publishers are considering print stopping production because of rising costs, others are looking to diversify from ‘over-reliance’ on digital platforms.

The PINF, a registered charity, is set to use the report to make the case for greater external support for the independent sector.

PINF executive director Jonathan Heawood, pictured, said: “The UK can’t continue to rely on the efforts of professional journalists who are effectively subsidising the information needs of our society.

“At PINF, we are stepping up our efforts to strengthen capacity among indie news providers and to build external support for the sector.”

Today’s publication comes ahead of the world’s first “Indie News Week”, which takes place next week and is designed to celebrate the public value of independent news providers.

The report estimates that the independent sector now employs between 600-800 people across the UK, with a collective revenue of £18.6m to £24.8m.

Local news publishers who took part in the survet said they concerned about reduced advertising revenue, rising print costs, and competition from local radio – but see opportunities in the gaps left behind by the closure of corporate outlets.

Despite the revenue downturn, the report also contains abundant stories of the social benefits of independent news publishers.

These include giving voice to their communities, pressing local government to act, inspiring larger publishers to pursue stories, highlighting wrongdoing, and giving first time writers an opportunity to get into the industry.