The chart and article below are from the American Enterprise Institute’s public policy blog.
The blue line in the chart above displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation, and appear in the chart as millions of constant 2012 dollars. Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950.
The decline in print newspaper advertising to a 62-year low is amazing by itself, but the sharp decline in recent years is pretty stunning. This year’s ad revenues of $19 billion will be less than half of the $46 billion spent just five years ago in 2007, and a little more than one-third of the $56.5 billion spent in 2004.
Here’s another perspective: It took 50 years to go from about $20 billion in annual newspaper print ad revenue in 1950 (adjusted for inflation) to $63.5 billion in 2000, and then only 12 years to go from $63.5 billion back to less than $20 billion in 2012.
Even when online advertising is added to the print ads (see red line in chart), the combined total spending for print and online advertising this year will still only be about $22.4 billion, less than the $22.47 billion spent on print advertising in 1953.
I was fortunate to be able to retire from newspaper reporting in 1998. Otherwise I’d be in the same position as the auto workers or steel workers a few decades ago. My local newspaper and former employer, the Democrat and Chronicle here in Rochester, N.Y., is gradually being hollowed out, as resources are shifted to the Internet and specialty publications. Good reporting is being done, but by a staff that is being stretched thinner and thinner. The problem is that you can get certain types of information over the Internet free and instantaneously that you would have to pay for and wait to get from newspapers—sports scores, stock prices, weather reports, movie schedules, classified advertising.
I still subscribe, though. I recently suspended my subscription out of irritation with the D&C subscription service, but accepted their offer for renewal after a few weeks of trying to get along without a daily newspaper. American print newspapers historically have been important to binding together geographic communities and giving them an identity. I wonder if on-line publications can fill the same role. I spend more time each day on-line than I do reading my local newspaper, but my information about Rochester comes mainly from the D&C and City newspaper, the city’s alternative weekly.
Hat tip to Rod Dreher.