You cannot have made it more than a year into this program without hearing that print media subscriptions are down. This is presenting a problem to the journalists at print publications because it’s forcing them to rely on advertising revenue (increasingly online at that) rather than subscription revenues.
And I think we all know why this is happening; more people are turning to unconventional sources like social media and blogs. Only 20% of Americans get their news from print newspapers, down from 27% in 2013, and papers across Canada and the United States are showing print subscribers dropping. Online it’s slightly different as circulation is growing (likely from the medium switch by print subscribers) but it’s still not enough to counter the costs of publishing. Print ads still make the majority of ad revenue for newspapers, and while digital is catching up it’s also much less profitable as it’s unable to replace the loss from falling print ads.
Newspapers know the online medium is better for them at this point, because they are not going to find audience growth in print and eventually advertisers are going to become reluctant to spend hundreds of dollars on print ads that nobody’s seeing. But even a full embrace of the online medium doesn’t bode well for the journalism community as companies will consolidate and cut personnel. This isn’t exaggeration, it’s reality. The journalism workforce has dropped by 39% in the last 20 years, and corporations like Postmedia are purchasing major newspapers to bring them into one company. This amalgamation of companies is a threat to the objectivity of journalism (which I’ve discussed in a previous post) and the loss of personnel may make it difficult for prospective journalists to emerge.
While major world events may see subscribers rise (the New York Times saw their subscribers go up by 132 000 after Trump’s election) the trends are not good. The press is a bedrock of democracy, and newspapers are some of the most reputable organizations in that press. I fear for the future of political discourse and political accountability without them; if newspapers fail, I fear that post-truth will become the reality of our society. It is our apathy and inattentiveness that has led us to this situation, and it must change. So please, consider this a request. Go out and support good journalism. Print may be dead, but journalism must never die.