Knight Center
Knight Center


U.S. newspapers losing $7 in print ad revenue for every $1 gained in digital, Pew study says

In "The Search for a New Business Model," a new report released Monday, March 5, by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellency in Journalism, the study of revenue trends at U.S. newspapers shows that while print ad sales fell an average of 9 percent during the last year, digital ad revenue grew by 19 percent. In other words, for every $1 gained in digital advertising, $7 are lost in print revenue.

Thus, despite the promise of digital advertising, the study suggests that online ad revenues are not making up for print losses, and that "cultural inertia is a major factor" as most newspapers are just not prioritizing digital ad sales. As many newspaper executives surveyed noted in the report, it's hard to shift focus to the digital side, especially when print sales still comprise 92 percent of overall ad revenue.

The 16-month study examined private financial data from 38 U.S. newspapers and included interviews with executives from 13 companies that own a total of 330 dailies, explained the news agency AFP.

Based on the study, NPR noted four "winning strategies" to help newspapers "cash in across the digital realm": "ride the boom," "diversify digital ads," "get creative," and "end newsroom culture wars."

Looking at the future of newspapers five years down the road, newspaper executives surveyed said newspapers still would be printed and delivered, only less frequently, perhaps even only on Sundays. Newspapers also would continue to be "diluted" as newsrooms continue to shrink.

Other notable findings from the report show:

  • There are about 1,350 surviving U.S. English-language daily newspapers, down from about 1,400 five years ago, and most have a circulation less than 25,000.
  • Only 40 percent of the papers studies said targeted advertising is a major part of their sales effort.
  • Advertising on mobile devices made up just 1 percent of digital revenue in 2011.
  • Less than half, 44 percent, of the dailies reported that they were trying to develop nontraditional revenue streams, such as holding events, consulting, or selling new business products.


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