The Postal Service. Maps. Encyclopedias. Spelling. These are all products that have either become moot or taken a substantial hit with the rise of the Internet. Most people think of newspapers as dinosaurs lining up to join Newsweek in the great cemetery of the print era, but the Newspaper Association of America believes we shouldn’t give up hope just yet. Newspapers aren’t losing money as dramatically as we think they are. They’re evolving into the modern era, not getting trampled by it.
According to a report released earlier today, newspaper revenue only dropped by 2% in 2012. The industry made $38.6 billion compared to $39.5 billion in 2011. That’s the slowest rate of decline in the past six years, according to the Washington Post. The report from the NAA breaks down the various money channels and finds that newspapers have been able to keep their heads above water because they use new revenue sources instead of relying on old ones.
Pure advertising revenue in newspapers declined by 9% in 2012, a fact that surprised no one. When businesses create their marketing budgets, print advertising is getting crossed off the list in favor of digital tactics. Sometimes this translates directly to online advertising, but not often. Digital advertising only increased by 4% in 2012, which means 5% of advertisers decided to take their dollars elsewhere. But even with the 4% increase, digital advertising only makes up 11% of total revenue. Where is the rest coming from?
The NAA zeroed in on “New” sources in 2012, which made up 8% of total revenue. While these miscellaneous tactics are considered the life bread and future of newspaper profitability, one can’t help but think they’re a tad paltry. The top five reasons listed are:
- Digital agency and marketing
- E-commerce and transaction
- Event marketing
- Commercial delivery
- Commercial printing revenue
Let’s look at these five categories in more detail. Commercial printing and commercial delivery relate to agencies taking the resources they have – massive printing presses and delivery routes all across town – and letting private companies use them. The digital agency and marketing category covers newspapers that promote local businesses in their social channels, which are basically glorified advertisements. E-commerce and event marketing round out the list by allowing third parties to sell products on their sites and promoting community events, respectively. Newspapers are surviving because they’re making products and specializing in areas that have nothing to do with news.
In short, boasting that the revenue from newspapers is dropping at a much slower rate is like claiming your income increased in February because you sold all of your possessions. The money isn’t coming from newspapers growing into the modern era, it’s from quick duct-tape solutions from companies trying to keep their ships afloat.
Reading the newspaper over breakfast or on the morning commute is as American as baseball or apple pie. While the slow-down in revenue loss is certainly something to celebrate, it’s still debatable whether the solutions put forth by the 17 agencies will be solid, long-term survival plans for the morning paper.
Where do you stand? Do you weep for the loss of print journalism?