People have been saying it for years:
“Newspapers are a dying breed. One day, we’ll see people reading nothing but tablets and smartphones.”
While this may be the case in, say, 300 years from now, the newspaper is actually far from dead. Rather than being a walking zombie, it’s more of “the little engine that could,” minus the “little” part.
According to a 2013 Nielson National Cross-Media Engagement Study, 78 percent of all adults in the U.S. read newspapers or their online websites on a weekly basis.
78 percent. That’s 158 million adults. Every week. Hardly the number you would expect a “dead medium” to be averaging.
The study also finds newspapers to be the most engaging and trustworthy mediums on the market. With television companies now viewed as political mouthpieces, and social media sites brimming with cat articles and extremely biased political rants, consumers turn to newspapers for level-headed, factual news stories.
Despite this, the skeptics will still say that newspapers are dying, that technology will one day finish-off the last newspaper and the last “newsie” will drop his stack of papers in the gutter and walk home with his head hung in shame.
But again, the numbers don’t lie, and they show newspapers as being anything but dead.
In 2012, the American Newspaper Industry Revenue Profile came up with some tough numbers, finding that total revenue for newspapers declined yet again in 2012. However, despite the decline in advertising revenue, other areas of the newspaper revenue appeared to be on the upswing. Overall circulation alone had grown 5 percent in 2012, and new areas of revenue that hadn’t existed a few years ago had grown by 8 percent.
Looking at the revenue profile a little closer, it shows that the growth in circulation was the first growth in that area since 2003. What else has been happening since 2003 that we’re still feeling the effects of which today?
Oh yeah, that’s right. One of the greatest economic recessions this country has ever seen, not to mention the greatest worldwide recession since World War II. If we’re judging newspapers to be dead simply because they lost some numbers during a national (possibly even global) crisis, well, grab your pitchforks, because I’m pretty sure there are a bunch of dead industries wandering around out there right now.
Yet newspapers simply aren’t dead. Their growth in new areas means that they are evolving. They don’t have to stick with just print, and they don’t have to be a primarily online entity. They can do both, and it’s actually turning out well for them.
According to the same 2012 Revenue Profile, revenue for bundled print and digital circulation grew nearly 500 percent, attesting that people want both, and newspapers are becoming more flexible every day.
So, yes, in the distant utopian (or dystopian, depending on your personal outlook) future, printed newspapers may one day be put out to pasture.
That day, however, is not today.