The New York Times added more than 500,000 digital subscriptions in 2016 – up 47% year-on-year – while The Wall Street Journal added more than 150,000 digital subscriptions (+23%) and The Chicago Tribune added about 100,000 in weekday digital circulation (+76%).
But these gains did not translate into circulation growth for the industry, according to Pew Research Center analysis, which shows that total weekday circulation for US dailies– both print and digital – slipped 8% in 2016, the 28th consecutive year of decline.
In fact, Pew reports that total weekday circulation for daily newspapers fell to 35 million, while total Sunday circulation declined to 38 million – the lowest levels since 1945.
Separate Pew metrics based on year-end financial statements of seven publicly traded newspaper companies suggests that advertising revenue across the industry fell even more sharply than in recent years with a 10% decline, which outpaces the 8% decay in 2015.
“This decline put total ad revenue for the industry in 2016 at $18 billion,” says Pew. “This is nearly a third of what it was just 10 years ago. In 2006, the Newspaper Association of America – now known as the News Media Alliance – put total industry ad revenue at $49 billion.”
However, circulation revenue has held steady, rising from $10.4 billion in 2012 to $10.9 billion in 2015 and 2016. “This is a small bright spot for the industry, and comes as some publishers are pursuing a subscription-first model by focusing on growing the number of subscribers rather than retaining advertising revenue.”
Image: Wall Street Journal