By Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute, Emily Guskin, Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell of PEJ
The newspaper industry enters 2012 neither dying nor assured of a stable future. The industry has rallied around a story about itself – that year-by year it is developing new digital products and new revenue streams to transition from dependence on print advertising. In 2011, that traditional advertising pool declined for a sixth consecutive year. The website of the Gannett Company, emphasizing those digital initiatives, now intentionally has no mention of newspapers on its home page.
If this transformation were going well, one would expect the new revenues to get closer each year to replacing ad revenues lost in print. In 2011, according to Newspaper Association of America statistics, online advertising was up $207 million industry-wide compared to 2010. Print advertising, though, was down $2.1 billion. So the print losses were greater than the digital gains by 10 to 1.1
That was even worse than a 7-to-1 ratio of print losses to digital gains in 2010. And during 2008 and 2009, steep declines in print were accompanied by small losses in online too. (An earlier PEJ study examined print losses to digital gains for a sample of papers using 2010 figures and found similar results.)
Even if the newspaper industry can find a sustainable model online, moreover, those ratios mean newsrooms will be much smaller than they were a decade ago…