From the Index: 
The reach of independent news publishers far outstrips their revenue

This post is an excerpt from the Public Interest News Foundation’s Index of Independent News Publishing 2021. 

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  • The 56 publishers in PINF’s survey reach a total of more than 10.1 million unique users every month and produce an average of 1,000 pieces of content every year.
 
  • Despite their significant reach, these publishers generated combined total revenue last year of less than £5.4m
  • Most publishers said that their greatest challenge is revenue, whilst a significant minority described their challenges as ‘big tech support for larger organisations’ and ‘government favouring status quo organisations’. 

 

The independent news sector in the UK consists of small but professional news organisations that are putting out a significant volume of content and reaching a large proportion of the population. 

One organisation in our sample has an online audience of five million unique monthly users. However, this is an outlier, and the median number of unique users is 36,000. In total, email newsletters across our sample reach nearly 150,000 subscribers – although again this includes an outlier with 100,000 subscribers – whilst the median is 2,159. Ten respondents returned video metrics which indicated in excess of 10.7m views over the year. 

Small, independent publishers lack the political clout of their larger counterparts, and as a result they feel vulnerable to decisions taken by policymakers and digital platforms. They told us that they find it hard to compete against ‘Facebook and Twitter’s grip on people’s eyeballs’, and struggle to persuade platforms to give their accounts ‘blue tick’ verified status. As a result, their content is harder to monetise than the content of larger publishers. 

Recommendations 

 

We recommend that policymakers ensure that the role of independent news publishers is recognised by Ofcom and the Digital Markets Unit as they begin to regulate the relationship between news publishers and digital platforms.  

 

We also recommend that platforms ensure that independent publishers’ social media accounts are verified and protected from unnecessary interference. 

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This post is an excerpt from the Public Interest News Foundation’s Index of Independent News Publishing 2021. The Index 2021 is the first in a planned series of annual surveys. We’re keen to hear your feedback, such as suggestions for further research over the years to come. 

Authors: Dr Clare Cook, Dr Jonathan Heawood, Dr Coral Milburn-Curtis and Joe Mitchell.  

 

With thanks to the 56 publishers who took part in the survey. For more on the survey methodology, please see the full report.