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The U.S. newspaper industry has history going all the way back to the colonies.  Newspapers enjoyed a long reign not only as the primary source of news and information, but also as the main advertising vehicle for brands, retailers, and even individuals within their markets.

Newspaper publishers faced and survived major challenges over the years from short broadcast newscasts on radio and TV, radio all-news formats, television news programs, and 24-hour cable news channel cycles, retaining subscribers and revenue streams.

In the 21st century, however, online and digital platforms affording real-time news coverage – including personalized news delivery – have made immediacy the order of the day.  Publishers literally are faced with an “adapt or die” proposition.  Some are adapting innovative strategies to expand their digital services to the consumer – others have closed down.

Newspaper Counts and Circulation
Fewer newspapers were published in 2015 than ten years ago, and circulation has declined dramatically:

  • Daily Newspapers (published 4 or more days per week)
    • There were 1,331 daily papers and 934 Sunday papers as of January 1, 2015;
    • There were 1,457 daily papers and 915 Sunday papers in February ‘05
    • Combined circulation of all dailies in 2015 is 40.4M; Sunday, 42.7M;
    • Combined circulation of all dailies in ‘05 was 54.6M; Sunday, 55.2M
  • Weekly Newspapers (published 1-3 days per week)
    • There were 5,740 weekly papers as of 1/1/15 (5,157 publish once a week)
    • There were 6,659 weekly papers in February ’05  (6,086 published once a week)
    • Combined circulation of all weeklies in 2015 is 49.5M
    • Combined circulation of all weeklies in 2005 was 49.5M
  • Shoppers/Total Market Coverage (TMC) (Publications with less than 25% editorial content)
    • There were 1,365 shopper/TMC publications as of January 1, 2015
    • There were 1,417 shopper/TMC publications in February ‘05
    • Total circulation of all shoppers/TMC publications in 2015 is 60.0M
    • Total circulation of all shoppers/TMC publications in 2005 was 56.8M

(Source: Editor & Publisher International Annual Data Books – Dailies and Weeklies – 2015 and 2005; counts and combined circulation comparisons based on January 1 data for both years)

  • Newspaper publishers are changing their business models to curtail costs, expand access to content via digital platforms:
    • Reduction of home delivery schedules to 3 or 4 days a week, including Sunday
    • Some publications adopting these schedules continue to offer print editions at newsstands and other points
    • Others offer digital-only options on non-delivery days

      Recognized channels for audited newspaper circulation data by the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), formerly known as the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), are:
      • Print distribution (individually paid, business/traveler distribution such as hotels and airlines, and consumer copies that are non-paid or paid by someone other than the individual)
      • Digital Replica:  Digital format containing all editorial and ROP ad content; may contain additional editorial and advertising.  Circulation numbers not synonymous with daily Website visitors, page views, or other common web traffic terms
      • Digital Non-Replica:  Digital format with same name of paper’s AAM membership; may contain different editorial or advertising from the print version.  Circulation numbers not synonymous with daily Website visitors, page views, or other common web traffic terms.
      • Affiliated Publications: Print and/or digital editions reflecting a different name than AAM member; may contain audience-focused, alternative language or community papers.


    • Fewer than 2/3 of U.S. adults read a print version of the newspaper
      • 60.8% of all U.S. Adults 18+ read a print newspaper during the past week

    (Source: The Newspaper Association of America (NAA), 2013)

      • Print readership varies by age demographic, with older adults more likely to consume print than younger Americans. 
      Daily Sunday
    Adults 18-24  6.3%  6.8%
    Adults 25-34   9.2%  10.9%
    Adults 35-45   10.9% 12.4%
    Adults 45-54   17.8% 18.8%
    Adults 55-64   21.1% 21.1%
    Adults 65+  34.7%  29.9%

    (Source: GfK MRI Doublebase 2015)

    • When newspaper Websites/e-Editions are added to print, Adults 18+ readership in the past week increases to 69.1% 
    • Readership for the combined platforms increases significantly to 61.2% for Adults 18-34 and is up to 72.4% for Adults 35+.  Results for the 55+ demo are 76.1%. 
    • 41.9% of Men 18+ and 44.1% of Women 18+ read a print or e-Edition of the Sunday newspaper, while the 5 weekday combined Print/e-Edition cume of papers for these demos is 53.8% of Males and 51.5% of Females.

    (Source: The Newspaper Association of America (NAA), 2013)

    • Newspaper correlates with higher income levels, reaching
      • 45% of adults with households incomes of $150K+
      • 41% of those with HHI of $100K-$149,999
      • and 40% of those in the $75K-$99,999 bracket.
    • Additionally, newspaper reaches
      • 40% of college graduates
      • Approximately 50% of adults with some post-graduate work or post-graduate degrees. 

    (Source: Pew Research Center-State of the News Media 2013/Scarborough 2012 Report, Wave 1)

    • Many print newspaper advertisers like to “target” consumers by placing their ads in special sections of the paper.  However, among those adults who read print newspapers, only a small percentage of actually read every section – many readers will never be exposed to advertising.
      • Weekday papers
        • Front page, 30%
        • Local News, 29%
        • International/National News, 16%
        • Business/Finance, 9%
        • Comics, 13%
        • Editorial Page, 12%
        • Entertainment/Lifestyle, 12%
        • Fashion, 5%; Food/Cooking, 12%
        • Health, 11%
        • Home/Home Design/Furnishings/Gardening, 7%
        • Movie Listings & Reviews, 8%
        • Science & Technology, 6%
        • Sports, 16%; Travel, 6%
        • TV Listings, 7%
        • Weather, 17%
        • Advertisements, 9%
        • Circulars/Inserts/Fliers, 12%
        • Classified Advertising, 10%.
      • Sunday/Weekend papers
        • Front page, 29%
        • International/National News, 16%
        • Local News, 25%
        • Business/Finance, 9%
        • Comics, 14%
        • Editorial page, 10%
        • Entertainment/Lifestyle, 14%
        • Fashion, 5%
        • Food/Cooking, 12%
        • Health, 11%
        • Home/Home Design/Furnishings/Gardening, 8%
        • Movie Listings & Reviews, 8%
        • Science & Technology, 7%
        • Sports, 15%
        • Travel, 8%
        • TV Listings, 7%
        • Weather, 15%
        • Advertisements, 11%
        • Circulars/Inserts/Fliers, 17%
        • Classified Advertising, 10%

(Source: GfK MRI Doublebase 2015)

  • On the positive side for print newspaper advertisers, consumers are mainly receptive to ads in this medium.
    • 52% of Adults use print newspapers (including ads in regular news, classified pages, and inserted circulars) on a weekly basis to assist with shopping planning and purchase decisions
    • 79% of respondents indicated they had taken some action in response to a print newspaper ad during the prior month, with most common actions being: 
    • Becoming aware of a sale (61%)
    • Clipping a coupon (51%)
    • Buying something advertised (48%)
    • Visiting a retail store or showroom (40%)
    • Discussing or mentioning the product advertised with a friend/family member (40%)
    • Bought something at an Internet site they saw advertised in the paper (14%)
    • Even non-readers will check into the paper for advertising message
    • 15% of non-readers of newspapers (those who said they hadn’t “read or looked into” a newspaper during the prior week reported having used a paper to check sales in local stores
    • 13% had clipped a coupon
    • 6% had checked out a classified ad

(Source: Frank N. Magid Associates for NAA/Newspaper Association of America – May 2014)

  • Only 35% of all adults indicated they ignore newspaper ads the most (vs. 82% of online ads)

(Source: Marketing Charts/Goo Technologies/Harris Interactive – February 2014)

  • Consumers are migrating to newspapers’ digital platforms, according to reports from comScore:
    • Newspaper digital access reached 78% of online adults in March 2014
    • Net reach of newspaper digital content:
      • 18-24 = 71%
      • 25-34 = 84%
      • 35-44 and 45-54 = 79%
      • 55+ = 77%
    • Audience engaging with digital content reached all-time high of 161M adult unique visitors in March 2014, up from 135M in April 2013
    • Use of desktop or laptop to as sole device for newspaper digital content declined in 2014 for all age groups except 55+
    • Use of mobile (Smartphone/tablet) access in some form increased across all age groups
    • Newspaper subscribers who use mobile news apps more likely than non-subscribers to use those branded by newspapers (RJIonline, 2014)
    • Newspaper subscribers of all ages most likely to pay for subscription to mobile news content
      • 11% of newspaper subscribers overall said they pay for mobile content
      • 5% on non-subscribers to newspaper pay for content

  • Newspapers’ digital pay walls have gained traction,
    • Approximately one-third of U.S. dailies have adapted digital pay walls
    • Success of this revenue stream will hinge on consumers’ willingness to pay for access to content.
    • Future for digital newspaper advertising lies in targeted display, or ads responsive to interests readers have demonstrated in their Internet access to content

(Source: RJIonline, 2014)

  • Newpaper advertising revenue is declining, but not as fast as circulation and readership.
    • Newspaper ad revenue hit its all-time high in 2000, at $48.67B.
    • Total 2013 spending was $23.57B (-2.6% from 2012), comprising
      • Print @ $17.3B  (- 8.5% from 2012)
        • Retail and national ad spend both down 8%
        • Classified fell 10.5%
      • Digital @ $3.42B from digital (+1.5%)
        • Approximately ¼ (24%) derives from “pure-play” digital appearing only on digital platforms, not in print products
      • Niche/Non-Daily Publications @ $1.45B from niche/non-daily (-5.8%)
      • Direct Marketing @ $1.40B from direct marketing (+2.4%)
    • Circulation revenue in 2013 was $10.87B, up 3.7% over 2012
      • Within that total, digital-only circulation revenue grew 47%
      • Print and digital bundled circulation increased 108%
      • Print-only circulation revenue from home delivery and single-copy sales declined 20%.

(Source: NAA/Newspaper Association of America, 2013 total year revenue)

  • Newspaper advertising expenditures represented approximately 10% of total media spending in 2014 (vs. 1.8% share of media time)  (Magna Global, 2015)
  • U.S. advertisers invest approximately $0.82 per U.S. adult hour spent with the medium
    • Disproportionately high volume compared to major electronic media such as TV ($0.17), radio ($0.13), online($0.12), mobile($0.07)
    • Ad spend may remain higher due to habit, not yet caught up to decline in consumption

    (Source: Marketing Charts 2015)

    For additional information/insights on Newspapers:
    Newspaper Association of America (NAA):

    National Newspaper Association (NNA):

    Alliance for Audited Media (AAM)