Oxford Academics: Web Not To Blame For Newspapers’ Slide

British newspapers are too dependent on advertising according to a new book edited by academics at Oxford University.

This imbalance is the main reason for a spate of closures and mass redundancies at publishing groups in recent years, they argue.

The book challenges the conventional wisdom that the internet has undermined business models by claiming there is no correlation between internet usage and newspaper profitability.

The work, commissioned by the Oxford-based Reuters (NYSE: TRI) Institute for the Study of Journalism, examined newspaper industries in several countries, including the US, UK, Germany and Brazil.

In many countries where online activity is high, including Scandinavia and Germany, newspapers are still faring well, with titles typically generating 50 percent of revenues from advertising.

In the UK and the US, where advertising accounts for a larger proportion of revenues, the picture is far gloomier, but that could be explained by a cyclical advertising recession which has seen spend fall dramatically in recent years, the study suggests.

“Countries like the US, Germany and Finland all have about the same proportion of internet users”, the books editors write.

“However, the American newspaper industry, which has generated more than 80 percent of its income from advertisements, is today in a much more serious crisis than its counterparts in Germany and Finland, where advertising typically constitutes about 50 percent of total revenues”.

The research found that newspapers in countries which have a long tradition of state-sponsored journalism are performing well in the internet age.

Public subsidies have been put forward as a potential business model in the UK, but many newspaper owners are uneasy about accepting government money because they fear it would affect their editorial independence.

The book, The Changing Business of Journalism and its Implications for Democracy, is co-edited by RISJ director Dr David Levy.

Levy was the only foreign member of the commission established by President Sarkozy to review the future of the French public service broadcaster France Televisions.

This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.