Declining circulation and advertising revenue are putting a strain on newspapers. How can they continue to provide the kind of education coverage the public deserves? Here are some solutions. The newspaper industry needs to refocus its coverage on topics that matter most to the public. But declining circulation and advertising revenues may not be the only reasons for the decline. The decline isn’t exclusive to education coverage. The decline in newspaper subscriptions may also have something to do with shrinking news coverage.
Impact of declining circulation
Newspapers’ circulation is declining. Compared to 1990, weekday circulation was lower than Sunday circulation. But by 2020, circulation will be up and advertising revenue will fall, the Center for Newspaper Research reports. The center uses publicly available data from the newspapers to project future trends. Total weekly circulation is estimated to reach 24.4 million by 2020, compared to 62 million in 1990. But the decline is not a sudden one.
Newspapers report declining circulation for years now
Since the mid-2000s, newspaper sales have declined, and their audiences have shifted online. The Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed the circulation of publicly traded U.S. newspapers (accounting for more than 300 daily papers) and applied that change to total circulation. Those results show that overall circulation will be down 6% by 2026. While print circulation will continue to decline, online audiences will continue to grow, reducing the need for newspaper advertising.
Impact of declining advertising revenues
According to a report from WARC, global advertising spending will decline 10.2% by 2020, with the total reaching $557.3 billion. In 2019, the top five companies collected $247 billion, or 38% of all advertising revenue. But this figure is lower than the average annual growth rate since 2006, and is even lower than the 8.9% growth rate seen in 2009.
While there is a general trend of declining ad revenue, some publishers are more resilient than others. Pew reports that the ad revenue of nightly network TV increased by 11% during the flu pandemic, while ad revenue for local newspapers fell by 8%. This is despite rising viewership and higher ad revenue for ABC, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. But there’s no reason to think that the decline in ad revenue is a temporary blip in the media landscape.
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Impact of declining circulation on journalism
Newspapers’ circulation has been steadily decreasing since the early 1990s. During that time, the population of the U.S. increased by 22 percent. Newspapers aren’t replacing beat reporters who cover education. Instead, they’re relying on non-original content and advertising. Newspapers are losing audience, too, causing a sharp decline in education coverage. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report shows this trend is likely to continue through 2026.
One solution to this problem is to provide alternative forms of education coverage. Rather than relying on traditional newspapers, foundations and non-profit organizations should promote and fund journalism about teaching methods, curricula, course offerings, and testing in the education space. Instead of focusing on the decline of circulation, these organizations can promote investigative reporting on schools and teachers. This will give educators more tools to analyze the educational system.
Impact of declining advertising revenues on journalism
The recent COVID-19 recession in the U.S. and the worldwide drop in advertising revenue were enough to make the year 2020 the worst year in media history. The economy did recover in the U.S., however, with political advertising and digital advertising growth propping up overall ad sales. In 2021, the economy came back with a bang and global ad revenues jumped 22%, reaching a record high of $710 billion. Despite the global slump, the recovery is expected to continue.
According to a new study, the top five ad-generating companies will account for nearly 46% of all global ad-revenue in 2020. This includes Google, Facebook, and Alibaba. As of January 1, these companies alone made $247 billion, representing 38% of the total global ad-revenue market. Although Amazon and Comcast still topped the list of largest advertisers in the U.S. in 2019, these companies’ ad revenues will only remain at a high-level for a while.