Monday, March 19, 2012

PEW Research Center: The State of Newspapers 2012

The PEW Research Center has issued its The State of the Media 2012 report. Following are some interesting facts about newspapers.

Revenue. Circulation revenue, though relatively stable, is down to where it was in 1997. It now makes up 30% of newspaper total revenues (a 50% increase over its traditional 20% share).
"Circulation revenues have declined much more slowly than in advertising, only about 10% since 2003. As a result, circulation’s share of total revenues has risen from less than 20% early in the decade to almost 30% in 2009. Statistics for 2010 and 2011 are not available, but several public companies have reported small declines. So the total has probably dipped below $10 billion."

Advertising revenue has dropped 50% from its 2005 high and is down to its 1984 level.

Readership and paid circulation. Readership has dropped for all age groups, especially the young. It's down a little less than half from 42% in 1999 to 23% in 2011 for the 18-24 age group. Other groups readership drop rate from 1999 to 2011:

age 25 - 34 - 44% to 24%
age 35 - 44 - 54% to 31%
age 45 - 54 - 63% to 41%
age 55 - 65 - 69% to 49%
age 65+ - 72% to 59%
"The percentage of adults in all age groups who report that they read a newspaper yesterday has fallen steadily since 1999. Adults over the age of 65 are still most likely to be newspaper readers, but their readership declined three percentage points in 2011 alone."

Paid circulation is down 30% (almost 19 million readers) from 1990 to 2010.
"This 20-year view shows a steady slide in paid circulation. Daily circulation, which stood at 62.3 million in 1990, fell to 43.4 million in 2010, a decline of 30%. Sunday circulation fell by about the same percentage, though Sunday editions have performed better than daily the last two years.

"Figures for 2011 are not available."

Newsroom work force.
"Employment of full-time professional editorial staff peaked at 56,900 in 1989. It then fell 27% through 2010.

"The newsroom census totals for 2011 will be released in early April. Our estimate is that 500 to 1,000 more jobs will have been lost, but this year’s census will include some changes in methodology and more inclusion of non-newspaper online publications.

"The census, by the American Society of News Editors, also includes a breakout of minority employment. It grew immensely from 1,900 in 1978 to 7,400 in 2006, but has since fallen during the layoff years to 5,300 at the end of 2010."

Top 25 newspapers.


Ten Mile Island said...

Coupla things.

Total circ.

Where was the O in 1994 in total circ v. today?

Circ rev was never the important number. Sure, you needed circ to get the postal thing, but after that, not so much.

Circ never paid the paper. It was ad revenue. When daily paper rev dropped, the "O" raised sub rates. Sub rates never made the paper profitable. Yet, they did it.

That was the break in the business model. Charge subs for marginal costs, ad rev for profit. There had to be a break-point for papers when they knew they were throwing away subs, but didn't care. Wasn't there?

Could the "O" be re-vivified? I think so. I think there's a place for a dead pine tree version of the news, delivered daily. That's what God made morning ablutions for. But, can the "O" give up shilling for the Left in order to gain subs? Both would be pleased. Both need to be served.

J-school is weird. I hired a J-school wiz a year and a half ago. Doesn't know how to parse a sentence. That's neither here, nor there. What was important in the hire was whether or not he could, or would, smell a rat. We're doing a touchy-feely this week at the local rural hospital. Something about the Governor's plan to make medicine cheap, available and affordable.

"I love you, long time."

Wish us well.

T. D. said...

TMI, you know more about this than I do. Thanks for your insight.

Subscription price has had to rise to keep up with the previous subscription level of funding, but can't possibly make up for lost advertising when subscriptions were factored in at 20% of revenues. Subscription rates are now 30% of revenues only because advertising has dropped so dramatically because advertisers want more eyes reading their ads not less.

My subscription figures only go back to Sep 1999 (347,538 daily). Oregonian subscriptions have dropped 30% since then to Sep 2011 (242,784 daily).

If the Oregonian could get something even approaching fairness, I think it could increase subscriptions at least 10% maybe 20% (getting people like you and me back). Just go for something reasonable to read and not insulting to one side or the other. But, they are so deep into group think, they can't see it. The Jaquiss Pulitzer prize winning accusation of non-interest in stories against their friends was utterly damning.

MAX Redline said...

Believe it or not, The Zero is now offering a full year subscription (in the PDX metro area) for $20. 5 cents a day - and coup'ns! Ya get lots and lots of coup'ns. Tells me that the daily's really on the ropes.

No expert, by any means, but if I recall correctly, circ numbers are essentially meaningless other than as an enticement teaser for would be adverts; if a paper's delivered to a barber shop and 40 customers may pick it up, that's circulation of 41. Subscribers, otoh, is a different beast.

New York Times next month will expand its paywall in hopes of driving digital subscriptions; the former policy was that you could read 20 articles a month for free, and that drops to ten. If their model derived primarily from ad revenues, as is the case with the alt-weeklies, we wouldn't see such a strong push toward paywalls for the top dailies.

It seems to me that this is where The Zero runs into trouble: they're a daily, but they have to rely largely upon ads; nobody's going to buy a sub to get past a paywall for their level of reportage. So they mostly re-work press releases in hopes of maintaining the ad base.

T. D. said...


Wow! A year of the Oregonian for $20? The paper to wrap food scraps in might be worth that.

Alas, the idea of paying to be insulted outweighs the garbage scraps benefit. (Conservatives are usually either stupid or nefarious for the Oregonian unless they're no longer politically active or are supporting liberal policies.)

Some Oregonian reporters are good and seem to not have an ax to grind. Maybe the Oregonian could do a conservative edition and a liberal edition. But, then they would have to admit to a bias.

You're right that advertising is their base. They already have a free once a week delivery of some of their Food section articles and weekly ads/coupons. My parents have been getting that after they cancelled their subscription about four years ago.

There has to come a time when giving away their newspaper is financially unproductive. But, then Advance Publications is rich enough to subsidize its top 25 newspaper in Oregon (it also owns the Cleveland Plain Dealer). Maybe it's worth big bucks to them to have bragging rights.

T. D. said...

We just got the Oregonian postcard flyer in the mail. The $19.99/year is for delivery of the Sunday and Tuesday editions for a year. Still a bargain if it didn't involve paying someone to insult us.

It seems like a high money losing venture for the Oregonian considering the regular subscription rate is $26/month for all 7 daily editions. If my figuring is right that's about 1/5th the cost one pays for those two days in a normal monthly subscription. ($1.75/wk vs. $0.38/wk)

Interesting that this is coming up just as the Audit Bureau of Circulations 6 month calculation period is coming to an end. They go April to September and October to March. I wonder how much it will boost the Oregonian's numbers.

Ten Mile Island said...


Circ is important.

Postal regs and all.

MAX Redline said...

Odd, TD - perhaps they're running different scams in different areas? If I recall correctly, the one they sent us was Sun-Thurs, meaning that you only "miss" the Fri/Sat issues. I could've misread - though even the deal you refer to is a loser for them. Frankly, I wasn't interested until you jogged my memory.

TMI: since the zero doesn't do much mail delivery (most being routes and boxes), I don't see where the circ is more important than the subs except in attracting potential ads.

More important for mags than rags, I think.

T. D. said...

TMI, that circulation is key to them is clear from this new offer.

Max, they probably do have different offers going. I'm assuming the Sun/Tues offer might be targeted at people getting their Food section freebie. You're right that this offer is specifically geared to advertisers and circulation. Because it's certainly a loser on subscription income.

Thanks to you both for your good insights and taking the time to share them.