We all know that newspapers are struggling; still, reading the data behind the decline is shocking, and looking at the charts is frightening. Newspapers as an industry have posted advertising losses for 25 consecutive quarters. The readership now prefers the Internet, so papers publish extensively online. While content translates well to digital, advertising does not. Ads command far less than they do in print. Since 2007, for every dollar newspapers have gained in digital ads, they’ve lost $55 in print ads. Hence, total revenue has dropped by about 75% since 2000.
The loss of revenue has caused major contractions — staff cuts, consolidations and less frequent publishing — leading to the worry that we have less information about the world around us. National issues will always be covered, but not necessarily the unsexy local issues that, when added up drip by drip, have a tremendous impact.
How much information are we actually being deprived of? The contemporary United States is a society saturated with more text and Media than we can sort through without the assistance of aggregators and compilers. The fall of professional journalism has coincided with a revolution in self-publishing, whether from citizen journalists filing reports, influential figures disseminating comments or regular people sharing their miscellaneous images, videos and thoughts.
Our population, with recording and publishing technology constantly in its pockets, has undoubtedly plugged some of the informational gaps that newspapers have left. But while we have eyes everywhere, we have few that are trained. The death of the newspaper industry isn’t the same as the death of journalism as a practice, but if there are no resources to train and fund reporters, it could be the end of professional journalism.