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U.S. digital publishing industry - statistics & facts

Although some print media formats remain popular among U.S. consumers, online newspapers and magazines as well as digital books have been gaining traction for years. Digital publishing revenue in the United States will continue to grow and is expected to amount to over 11 billion U.S. dollars by 2025, and estimates on digital publishing ARPU show increases across all mediums. The average revenue per user for digital publishing in the United States continues to trend upwards, indicating a healthy forecast for the industry’s future.

Digital newspapers

Before the age of digital disruption Americans were exclusively reading paper versions of books and magazines, but this is no longer true for many consumers, particularly when it comes to newspapers. The New York Times has accumulated over five million digital-only subscribers, which even for a well-known and recognized publication is quite remarkable. Gannett Company’s digital subscriber base more than doubled between 2018 and 2020, and Tribune Publishing is also seeing continued growth in its online-only audience.

Newspaper publishing revenue in the United States is still made up mostly by print, but print revenue falls each year as digital increases. If this trend persists, digital newspaper publishing could account for 50 percent of the total revenue figure in just a few years. Numerous newspapers have closed or merged since 2004, the majority being weeklies which closed down or merged with other papers. Looking at the stark increases in online news consumption it is disappointing but unsurprising that so many local weekly news publications have fallen by the wayside, and given that most consumers do not pay for online news, it stands to reason that the appeal of paid printed papers has waned.

Digital books

Data on book sales by format show consistent increases in e-book and audiobook revenue, but both have a long road ahead before being able to match printed book sales. E-book unit sales tend to fluctuate and only increase marginally each year but could in reality be far higher than currently estimated, with the sources gathering such data needing to partially rely on distributors willingly reporting their own figures. Equally, the probability of consumption being greater than officially recorded is extremely high, with illegal download activity remaining a known and common issue that is difficult to track. Audiobooks are also more popular than ever before, but print books remain the preferred format among U.S. readers, and although digital book revenue will keep growing, it will take time before e-books and audiobooks become the go-to option.

Printed magazines also remain the more favorable option for most U.S. consumers, but at the same time some of the leading magazines in the U.S. enjoy tens of millions of unique mobile visitors per month. Periodical publishing revenue is still comprised mostly of print revenue, but this is set to change in the next few years.

The digital publishing industry will continue to grow in tandem with the demand for online formats, and predictions suggest that revenue will still be derived mostly from books. Unless more consumers opt for paid online news content from their preferred publications and switch from spending money on printed magazines to digital versions, these two arms of the industry will remain slower than the book segment in terms of revenue development and userbase growth.

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