An American tradition – one that we partially fought a Revolution over its stamp-taxation by the Crown – continues its long, slow decline. The newspaper industry’s financial fortunes and subscriber base have been in decline for at lease a decade, if not more. A new Pew Research Center analysis* of Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) data finds that in 2017 the estimated U.S. daily newspaper circulation declined (print and digital combined) to 31 million for weekday and 34 million for Sunday, down -11% and -10%, respectively, from the previous year.
Total estimated advertising revenue for the newspaper industry in 2017 was $16.5 billion, a 10% decrease from 2016 based on the Center’s analysis of financial statements for publicly traded newspaper companies. Total estimated circulation revenue was $11 billion, which is changed only slightly from 2016, up by 3%. Meanwhile, digital advertising accounted for 31% of newspaper advertising revenue in 2017. The portion stood at 29% in 2016.
In Q4 of 2017, there was an average of 11.5 million monthly unique visitors (across all devices) to the top 50 U.S. daily newspapers, based on circulation, according to comScore data. This is nearly the same as in 2016 (11.7 million), making this the first year that did not show a double-digit rise in web traffic since Pew Research Center began tracking the trend.
Average minutes per visit to the websites of the top 50 U.S. daily newspapers, based on circulation, is about two-and-a-half minutes. This is roughly the same as 2016, and it sounds laughably brief – why bother – to AutoInformed.
Despite overall declines in newspaper circulation, digital circulation rose for some national newspapers. In recent years The (not failing) New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have not fully reported their digital circulation to AAM, the group that audits the circulation figures of many of the largest North American newspapers and other publications.
However, in independently produced reports, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported large gains in digital circulation in 2017: 42% for the Times and 26% for the Journal. But because these independently produced figures may not be counted under the same rules used by AAM, they are not included in the overall circulation analysis.
Average circulation for the top 20 U.S. alt-weekly newspapers is just over 55,000, a 10% decline from 2016 according to data from AAM, Verified Audit Circulation, Circulation Verification Council and independently produced reports. Alt-weekly newspapers are generally distributed for free in many U.S. cities and are heavily focused on arts and culture content.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, 39,210 people worked as reporters, editors, photographers or film and video editors in the newspaper industry in 2017. That is down -15% from 2014. Median wages in 2017 were about $49,000 for newspaper editors and about $34,000 for newspaper reporters.
*Since 2004, Pew Research Center has published analyses of key audience and economic indicators for a variety of sectors within the U.S. news media industry. Instead of a single summary report, the Center now produces a series of fact sheets showcasing the most important and trendable data points for each sector in an easy-to-digest format. Today’s fact sheet focuses on the newspaper industry. Additional fact sheets will be rolled out over the coming months.