Yup, that’s a B as in billion. Just when you think the newspaper industry can’t take another hit it gets hit with a haymaker. According to TechCrunch, the Newspaper Association of America reported a 28.28% year over year in Q1. That number’s monetary equivalent is $2.6B and that’s a stunning number even to an already beleaguered industry.
The sharp decline is caused by the lousy state of both digital and dead tree ad sales: the stats posted on the Newspaper Association of America website show that print sales fell by 29.7% in the first three months of this year (to $5.9 billion), while online sales dropped a record 13.4% (to $696.3 million).
Now it almost feels like dog piling on newspapers. With papers closing and the threats of closings being thrown around the kind of graph you see below almost seems unfair. It’s almost like you want the industry to cry “Uncle!” and just throw in the towel.
While most would say that newspapers aren’t going to vanish those same folks would say that the newspaper’s reach and influence will be determined by how well they move their offerings online and if they can get subscribers to pay for their content. The theory is that you pay for paper delivery then you should pay for online. Makes sense but most end users don’t see it that way at all unless there is a specific niche that will support the information that makes their jobs easier with most being related to business.
So is this the bottom yet for the industry? Not likely.
Annual ad sales for American newspapers came in at a grand total of nearly $49.5 billion in 2005 and dropped to about $37.8 billion in 2008. If the decline rate keeps accelerating the way these first quarter results suggest, we could be looking at somewhere in between $26 billion and $30 billion in total ad sales revenue for this year.
The momentum that the deconstruction of the newspaper industry has gained makes it unlikely that newspapers will ever see their heyday numbers again. The new era of ‘newspapers’ is going to need to get underway now if there is to be any papers of note in the future.
So let’s fast forward 10 years from now. It’s 2019. What does the newspaper industry look like. Is it relegated to museum displays or is there still a remnant remaining. Is it possible to see a bounce back by the industry? If so what could that look like? Feel free to jump in the time machine and take a look. Tell everyone what you see – if anything.