The Newspaper Association of America reported on Friday that print ad revenue for the industry fell by 9.4 percent last year, the biggest decline since it started keeping records in 1950. Within this total, classified ad revenue was hit even harder, down by some 17 percent. The figures show an accelerating decline in newspapers fortunes.
The figures were widely reported newspapers across the country, from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times to the Chicago Tribune. And I didn’t read it in any of them. Like an increasing number of Americans I read the stories only in electronic form, learning about the development initially through an e-mail.
Of course, the misfortunes of print news are to some extent balanced by growth in their online alter egos. But not completely: even when ad revenue from online operations is added in, newspaper revenue is down significantly (7.9 percent). While online publication may represent the future for many newspapers, it’s a more challenging and competitive future. The era of the dominant newspaper – if we can even define what a “newspaper” is – may be over.
Despite this, however, the era of newspaper regulation may not be over. This week, the Senate Commerce Committee is expected to vote on a “resolution of disapproval” overturning the FCC’s recent move to relax the ban on newspaper-broadcaster cross-ownership. The argument is that these two troubled media forms would monopolize news and information. It’s nonsense, of course, as detailed by my colleague Adam Thierer. But it may pass anyway.
Be sure to check online to see what happens.