Newspapers have been dying in slow motion for two decades now. In Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that the closure of newspaper after newspaper is a “danger to democracy;” Britain has nearly 200 fewer regional and local newspapers now than in 2005.
The picture is similar in the US – weekday print circulation has shrunk from a high of nearly 60 million in 1994 to 35 million for combined print and digital circulation today — 24 years of decline. Advertising revenue has cratered, falling from $65 billion in 2000 to less than $19 billion in 2016. Newsroom employment fell nearly 40 percent between 1994 and 2014.
Things have recently got much worse. Though new digital subscriptions at The Washington Post and The New York Times have soared since the 2016 election, digital subscription and advertising revenue has not made up for the collapse of print advertising industry-wide. And local newspapers across the country have not been nearly as successful at the digital subscription model as the Post and the Times.
And the list of advertising losses goes on from there, slice by slice: “Why would the car enthusiast turn to the local daily’s automotive section when there are countless specialty websites with richer content? What is the appeal of a paper’s entertainment section in a world of Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster and IMDb, and an online industry of celebrity gossip sites?”
Can far-sighted billionaires like Jeff Bezos at The Washington Post and Patrick Soon-Shiong at the Los Angeles Times halt the ominous slide, especially outside the great metropolitan areas?