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Date: 22/11/2014
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Newspapers Are America's Fastest Shrinking Business

From the Financial Times:

The headlines about the US newspaper industry have never been so bleak.

In recent weeks, LinkedIn, the networking website, and the Council of Economic Advisers have reported that the press is “America’s fastest-shrinking industry”, measured by jobs lost; the Newspaper Association of America has shown that advertising sales have halved since 2005 and are now at 1984’s level; and the Pew Research Center has found that for every digital ad dollar they earned, they lost $7 in print ads.

As media from television to billboards bounce back from the recession, newsprint is being left behind. Zenith Optimedia this week predicted that internet advertising would pass newspaper advertising next year around the world – but in the US, where internet penetration is high and newspaper audiences are shrinking, digital will overtake newspapers’ and magazines’ combined ad sales this year, eMarketer estimates.

“There’s no doubt we’re going out of business now,” one unnamed executive told Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which predicted a future of shrinking newsrooms, print deliveries only a few days of the week and more papers closing altogether. A USC Annenberg School study reached the stark conclusion that most printed US dailies would be gone in five years.

Departing executives and bankruptcy advisers have been among the few people making good money from newspapers. The chief executives of Gannett and the New York Times left in recent months with packages worth $37m and $24m respectively, while advisers to Tribune’s Chapter 11 proceedings have earned $233m.

Yet the very pressures on print are also accelerating the pace of change in newspapers’ business models.

On March 5, the Los Angeles Times introduced a “membership programme” that will limit online users to 15 free articles a month. After that, readers must pay a subscription, which is more pricey for digital-only access than for a bundle in which they keep taking the newspaper.

The move followed Gannett’s announcement in February that all 80 of its community newspapers will introduce digital subscriptions, in a move the publisher expects to add $100m to operating profit.

Gannett won't make $100 million for online subscriptions. They're dreaming.



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