For newspapers, the bottom’s still not in sight
Pew study: Circulation last year took biggest hit since 2010
June 17, 2016
By the editors of Media Life
This article is part of a Media Life series “Reinventing the American Newspaper.” Click here to read other stories in the series.
There has long been a feeling that newspapers will need to bottom out before things can start improving for the industry.
Alas, we still do not seem to have reached that low point.
Across virtually every category used to measure the health of a media industry—circulation, advertising, number of publications, employees—newspapers declined in 2015, according to the annual State of the Media report from the Pew Research Center.
Even categories that seem like they should be easy wins for the industry, such as digital advertising, suffered.
The overall picture is of a medium still very much in flux. It has yet to find a comfort level, and the continued drop-offs in all important measures suggest a rebound is still at least a few years off.
Here are some of the most interesting findings from the report.
Circulation remains on a downward trend
Weekday circulation was off 7 percent last year, while Sunday fell 4 percent.
Those represented the biggest year-to-year drops since 2010, though that reflects in part some changes in the way circulation is measured. The Alliance for Audited Media has been evolving its model to reflect digital readership, an increasingly large portion of newspaper distribution.
Because of that, circulation declines have been smaller than they may have been years ago, when only print was being measured year to year.
Still, AAM notes print accounts for 78 percent of weekday circ and 86 percent on Sundays.
Ad spending takes a hit
Money spent on newspaper advertising dropped 8 percent last year, marking the biggest year-to-year drop since 2010. As Pew says in the report, “for newspapers, 2015 might as well have been a recession year.”
This number includes both print and digital ad spending. The report notes that digital now accounts for about a quarter of newspaper ad spending.
Digital spending also dips
You’d think, given the strength of overall online ad spending, newspapers’ digital advertising would be up. But it actually dropped 2 percent last year,
Newspaper jobs drop again
To offset those ad spending declines, newspapers have been forced to make deep cuts over the past decade, and they’re far from done.
In 2014, the most recent figures available, the size of the newsroom workforce saw the biggest decline since 2009, dropping 10 percent.
Since 1994, the industry has lost an astonishing 20,000 newsroom jobs, falling to 32,900.
Number of papers drop
Finally, another jarring stat: Over the decade between 2004 and 2014, 126 daily papers closed.
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