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October 31, 2023

UK ad spend to grow in 2023 – but only the tech giants will benefit

Tech duopoloy has tightened grip on UK ad market in 2023 at expense of publishers.

By Dominic Ponsford

The UK advertising market is expected to grow 2.6% this year to £35.6bn, but tech platforms will account for all that revenue growth.

The picture for legacy media is a grim one both online and offline.

Advertising on national newsbrands is estimated to be down 8% in the first half of 2023 with print and online declining at roughly the same rate.

Magazine brands are down 7.3% overall in the first half, with online magazine advertising down 10.5%, according to new Advertising Association/WARC data.

And regional newsbrands are down 14% (with online advertising down 10.7%).

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The revenue decline may reflect a dip in traffic, partly caused by Facebook winding down the promotion of news content on its platform as well as a decline in younger audiences visiting publisher websites in favour of social media apps such as Tiktok.

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Search advertising, which is dominated by Google, was up 5.1% in the first half of this year.

Online display advertising grew by 5.8% with Facebook and Instagram owner Meta likely accounting for a big chunk of that growth as it is the largest supplier of digital advertising in the UK, earning at least £5bn a year from it according to the Competition and Markets Authority in 2021.

In 2020 Meta and Alphabet were estimated to take 80%, or £11bn, of the UK advertising market each year.

The overall market growth points to a UK economy that may avoid recession. But the downward trend in advertising revenue for publishers spells particular trouble for tabloid newsbrands like The Sun and Daily Mail and for regional newspaper publishers, which rely heavily on advertising for revenue as opposed to subscriptions.

The Mail titles have this year made extensive redundancies as has national tabloid/regional press publisher Reach.

James McDonald, director of data, intelligence and forecasting at WARC, said: “The UK’s economy continues to skirt with recession as households make cutbacks in the face of stubbornly high inflation and unemployment slowly ticks upwards as activity in the private sector cools.

“It is therefore encouraging that, amid this backdrop, the UK’s advertising industry was able to grow during the first six months of 2023, and that the market is on course to be 2.6% larger this year overall.

“It should however be noted that this growth is concentrated in certain corners of the industry, with broadcasters and publishers bearing the brunt of an unfavourable trading climate while digitally native platforms largely prosper.”

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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