By Edd Applegate
Print journalism in the United States is experiencing dramatic change as a result of readers favoring other media, including web sites, for their information. Consequently, newspapers are experiencing declining circulations and subsequently advertising revenue. In 2009, for instance, newspapers lost 26 percent in advertising revenue, according to the summary essay about newspapers (Project for Excellence in Journalism and Rick Edmonds), which is part of the “State of the Media: 2010.”
Newspapers, including newspapers in the major markets, have developed web sites which have become popular among readers, according to “Newspaper Web Traffic in Top Markets Leaps to an All Time High,” a press release that concerned a study by the Newspaper National Network. However, newspaper management has not been very successful in developing a system that generates enough advertising revenue from the web to earn a comfortable profit. In short, is going to the Web costing many newspapers more than it is worth?
As a result of declining revenue, newspaper management has laid off employees, especially reporters, by the thousands over the past few years. Several major dailies have even closed while other major newspaper companies filed for bankruptcy. The Tribune Company was merely one of several major newspaper companies that filed for Chapter 11 in 2009. And yet, despite these reductions, newspaper management asks their employees, especially reporters, to do more, often for the same salary.
Last year—2010—was an improvement over 2009. However, newspapers continued experiencing declines in advertising revenue, resulting in layoffs of more than 1,000 employees. Newspapers are no longer the key intermediary that companies need in order to reach consumers. Indeed, as Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell of the Project for Excellence in Journalism pointed out in the “Overview: The State of the News Media: 2011,” “Software programmers, content aggregators and device makers control access to the public. The news industry . . . finds itself more a follower than leader shaping its business.”
Where will the newspaper industry be in a few years? Well, one thing is certain: the typical newsroom will not be what it was just a few years ago. Editors and reporters will be employing a multitude of platforms—not just newsprint—to disseminate information to people. Besides, newsprint as we know it may not be around.
Edd Applegate has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in advertising and mass communications for more than 30 years, primarily in the School of Journalism, College of Mass Communications, Middle Tennessee State University. He is the author of numerous academic articles, chapters, and entries which have been published in scholarly journals, books, and encyclopedias. He is the author of several books, including Journalism in the United States: Concepts and Issues, which was just published by The Scarecrow Press.