Digital ad growth about to offset print decline

News websites and online publishers saw advertising soar 18 per cent in Britain last year, fuelling hopes that digital growth has reached a long-awaited tipping point where it will offset print decline.

Figures from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and consulting firm Deloitte show digital revenues grew at their fastest rate since the survey began in 2008 – thanks in large part to the mobile boom.

In a separate move, The Guardian said its digital revenues are set to rise more than 20 per cent to £70m in its financial year to March, helping net revenues rise "for the first time since 2008".

AOP said mobile usage is driving digital growth, with advertising on smartphones surging 60 per cent between September and December.

Once revenue from phone and tablet subscriptions is included, mobile revenues were up 80 per cent during the year. Video advertising was up 40 per cent.

Deloitte's media partner Howard Davies said the strong figures "demonstrate the ability of UK publishers to make money from mobile products and services". He added that he expects publishers to "experiment with innovative products and flexible pricing options to maximise this revenue stream" by using a mix of paid-for and free ad-funded models.

AOP chairman, John Barnes, said the survey showed a "growing optimism for the financial prospects of the digital publishing industry".

Several publishers have signalled in recent months that digital revenues are compensating for print declines.

Daily Mail & General Trust's consumer arm, which owns the Daily Mail, reported underlying ad revenues in the first seven weeks of its financial year were up 1 per cent.

Meanwhile, Daily Mirror owner Trinity Mirror said underlying revenues fell just 1 per cent in the last two months of its financial year.

AOP's members include most major newspaper, magazine and online publishers, including The Independent.