Globe publisher says print advertising revenues headed for 'accelerated decline'

TORONTO — Phillip Crawley, publisher of The Globe and Mail, is warning that already diminished print advertising revenues are headed for another shock as the impacts of COVID-19 ravage the newspaper industry.

Crawley on Thursday urged the federal government to take greater "targeted support measures" to help publishers weather the decline as they continue to cover the viral pandemic.

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"The long-term outlook for the Globe, and many others, has darkened because of the pandemic," he told the House of Commons standing committee on finance via a web conference.

"Print advertising revenue, once the backbone of newspapers, will go into accelerated decline."

Crawley said more than 60 per cent of the Globe's revenue is subscription driven at this point, while the other 33 per cent comes from digital and print advertising.

The Globe dropped its digital paywall on COVID-19 news stories, which led to a historic high in website traffic, but Crawley said it also meant the media company "sacrificed revenue."

He expects a drop in print advertising revenues of 32 per cent for the fiscal year starting in September, and he anticipates within the industry his paper "won't be the biggest victims in Canada."

"We've been cutting costs over the last few months to minimize layoffs, and I've suggested schemes to Heritage like a rebate on our printing costs or a subsidy on the fees that all the leading media companies pay each month to The Canadian Press," he said.

"The broadcasting industry has received additional support, and I argue that targeted support measures for the news publishing industry are likewise needed to help publishers weather the storm."

Crawley expressed disappointment with how the federal government has spent money for its $30-million COVID-19 awareness ad campaign.

"So far, the Globe has received only $81,000 out of that $30 million. By contrast, the Ontario government has spent nearly $1.5 million with the Globe and Mail in the last two months on its health awareness campaign."

Publishers that represent a majority of Canadian newspapers signed an open letter to the federal government earlier this month calling for immediate action to make digital giants like Facebook and Google share their advertising revenues with Canadian media companies.

"If you value the contribution that newspapers like the Globe and Mail make to the democratic debate, and you want to see them survive the current crisis and be healthy. I suggest this time you pay urgent attention to these inequities."

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A subsidiary of the Globe and Mail holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with the Toronto Star and a subsidiary of Montreal's La Presse.

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