The newspaper industry in the United States has faced many challenges over the last twenty years. Social media does not help matters, with many consumers around the world now getting their news from social networks despite such sites being considered untrustworthy. More recently, U.S. consumers have begun sourcing news updates from influencers instead of journalists, opening them up to more biased and inaccurate information and taking them further away from official channels. Even leaders have found themselves needing to adapt to news audiences moving from print to digital outlets, though some have fared better than others.
Whilst The New York Times’ revenue remains high enough to keep the company profitable, the last ten years have been less lucrative than the early 2000s and revenue has not surpassed two billion U.S. dollars since 2010. However, The NYT was quick to adapt to changing consumer needs and demands, and now has over five million subscribers to its digital-only product. Other companies were slower on the uptake. Gannett’s digital subscriber base for example only surpassed one million in 2020, a milestone which The New York Times reached in early 2016.
Meanwhile, Gannett-owned newspaper USA Today’s print and digital circulation has also fallen dramatically, despite topping the ranking of leading newspapers in the United States during the last period of measurement. Other major papers including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and The Los Angeles Times are also seeing a drop in their circulation, a trend which is sure to continue as consumers spend less and less time with traditional news sources.
Just a fraction of all time with media in the United States is spent on printed newspapers. This is not surprising, but what one might expect is that physical newspapers remain an important source of news. This is not necessarily the case. Data shows that newspapers are the least popular platform for daily news consumption for adults aged 18 to 29 years old, and aside from podcasts are also the last option for consumers aged 30 or above. Moreover, getting consumers to pay for news is a difficult task in a world where there is a wealth of free sources available online.
A global study revealed that more than 60 percent of U.S. respondents exclusively read news that can be accessed for free, and close to 70 percent admitted to never using a paid print or digital news subscription service. It is hard to imagine consumers ever returning to printed newspapers, and figures on the number of closed or merged newspapers speak for themselves.
The U.S. newspaper industry is fragile: newsroom employment, circulation, print advertising spending, and the number of local news outlets are all falling consistently each year. The immediate future of the market will see all the latter trends continue, whilst more local papers lose their fight to survive independently and are taken on by private equity firms and hedge funds. Concerns that prioritizing quality journalism will give way to the desire to make a quick profit are rife, and given the state of the industry, remain valid.
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