The Italian media system is being rocked by successive waves of digital transformation. Publishers are selling traditional outlets and acquiring digital companies focused on social media to target young audiences. Digital advertising overtook traditional offline advertising but is challenging, and the percentage paying for online news remains low, so legacy media brands are restructuring their newsrooms.
Major Italian publishing groups are continuing to offload some of their traditional news outlets to smaller publishers. Following on from its previous sales of major magazines such as Panorama and Donna Moderna, the Mondadori Group, owned by Silvio Berlusconi’s family, is now selling its main newspaper, Il Giornale, to the Angelucci group, which already owns other centre-right outlets such as Libero and Il Tempo. A new strategic focus on young audiences is clear from Mondadori’s December 2022 purchase of Webboh, an online outlet specialised in gossip and insights on the world of social media content creators.
In 2022 the GEDI group, which publishes major newspapers such as La Repubblica and La Stampa, sold the renowned investigative magazine L’Espresso and several local newspapers. In February 2023, faced with the possibility of further sales of local newspapers, journalists at La Repubblica went on strike. This followed resignations by several journalists in protest at the new editorial line of the newspaper, which they say changed with GEDI’s new owners – whom they blamed for softening the paper’s traditional centre-left stance to broaden its appeal. Meanwhile GEDI also prioritised social media content distribution and monetisation, with its July 2022 purchase of 30% of Stardust, an innovative and fast-growing influencer-focused marketing company.
Takeovers are not limited to traditional publishers. In 2022 the recently established podcast company Chora Media bought the digital-born outlet Will Media. While both players mainly distribute their content on third-party platforms such as Spotify (for Chora Media’s podcasts) and Instagram (for Will’s videos), the newly acquired outlet contributes with its popularity among young audiences. Our data show that Will Media’s general online reach is still quite limited (2%), but it does much better among 18–24-year-olds (8%).
Online advertising revenues overtook TV advertising revenues for the first time in 2019, and by 2021 accounted for over half (54%) of overall advertising revenues.1 There has been a clear trend towards implementing paywall solutions since 2017 but the percentage of our survey respondents paying for online news today – at 12% – is the same as it was five years ago. Il Corriere della Sera, the first among the top Italian newspapers to introduce pay solutions, has recently celebrated reaching 508,000 digital subscribers.
Most Italian news organisations still mainly rely on online advertising to fund digital operations. However, publishers’ share of online advertising revenues is limited, with platforms such as Google and Facebook/Meta taking the lion’s share (85% in 2021).2 This is particularly worrying as traditional advertising revenues shrink. From 2017 to 2021, the overall revenues in the television and print sectors decreased by 10%, and this led to a reduction of 2,400 employees (-17%) just in the newspaper and magazine industry.3
The online reach of Italian news brands is relatively unchanged. The websites with the widest reach are those of the main commercial TV broadcasters (Mediaset’s TgCom24 and SkyTg24), the Italian PSB RAI (Rainews.it), the Italian news agency ANSA, and the leading newspapers (La Repubblica, Il Corriere della Sera, and Il Fatto Quotidiano). The digital-born outlet Fanpage, which has a strong social media presence, retains its position among the top Italian news outlets. Il Post is another digital-born outlet achieving reasonable results (6%). These sites are particularly popular among young audiences, with Fanpage reaching 26% and Il Post reaching 13% of online under-35s.
In January 2022, HuffPost Italia introduced a freemium model with part of its content only accessible to paying users; this generated 5,000 subscribers in the first six months, but its online reach – which was 9% in our last 2022 survey – has fallen to 5%. Il Corriere della Sera’s publisher (Cairo/RCS) reported that the group’s digital revenues accounted for 25% of the total in 2022. Il Corriere della Sera has recently announced an editorial reorganisation to strengthen its digital operations. Along with a reduced number of pages in the print edition, these changes include an earlier start for the newsroom to ensure that online users can access a more complete and enhanced online news offer from early in the morning.
Dublin City University
Social media use for news has declined in recent years, but is still more than double that of print and, together with online, is slightly more used than television.
Pay for online news
Listen to podcast in the last month
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
Overall news trust remains very low (34%) but there are relatively high levels of trust in some specific news brands, especially those known for lower levels of political partisanship. The least trusted outlets are those with a more pronounced political bias and also the digital-born outlet Fanpage.