Researchers have long worried that the next recession — which economists say is already upon us — “could be an extinction-level event for newspapers,” said Penelope Abernathy, a University of North Carolina professor who studies the news industry.
More than 2,100 cities and towns have lost a paper in the past 15 years, mostly weeklies, and newsroom employment has shrunk by half since 2004. Many publications struggled as consumers turned to the internet for news, battered by the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the rise of giants like Google and Facebook that dominated the market for digital ads.
More recently, big national newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have diversified revenue by adding millions of digital subscribers. Many others, however, remain heavily dependent on advertising.
Twenty global news publishers recently surveyed by the International News Media Association expect a median 23% decline in 2020 ad sales. In the U.S., newspaper ad revenues have dropped 20% to 30% in the last few weeks compared with a year ago, FTI Consulting’s Ken Harding wrote in another INMA report.