Knight Center
Knight Center


Sixty years of declining circulation suggests newspapers will perish, says report

Newspapers will one day vanish from the earth, suggested a Canadian media consultant who studied 60 years of circulation numbers for paid newspapers in Canada, the United States and Great Britain, the Canadian Journalism Project (CJP) reports.

Ken Goldstein, a communications consultant based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, produced a report (available in PDF form on the CJP website) that shows daily newspapers' paid circulation as a percentage of households in all three countries has steadily declined since 1950. For national dailies in Great Britain, the fall has been from nearly 150% of households to 40%; from 100% to 30% or paid dailies in Canada; and in the United States, from just over 120% in 1950 to nearly 40% in 2010.

“Ultimately, someday, the print product will be gone. And its replacement will not necessarily be the same number of local newspapers simply re-purposed into electronic formats," said Goldstein. He added that "a few major national or international newspaper ‘brands’ will survive in electronic form, and that local news will come to be delivered by, and attached to, a variety of other online services.”

Goldstein's findings reflect data collected by the Pew Research Center's State of the News Media project which showed newspaper circulation in 2010 had declined by five percent, which was better than in 2009 when circulation had dropped by 10 percent.

However, there are other examples that suggest news delivered as ink on paper is still a thriving business. The Nieman Journalism Lab reports that two years after introducing a paywall The Newport Daily News in Rhode Island relies more on its print version for revenue than its website.

In Latin America, the newspaper industry is robust and growing, while Chidanand Rajghatta, foreign editor for The Times of India, argues print media is doing better than just surviving as newspapers embrace the digital age. "There is still plenty of life left in the old dogs," Rajghatta said in an opinion piece for The Economic Times.

This blog is produced at The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


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