U.S. newspapers have been in a long economic downturn. While some national newspaper brands have reported audience growth in recent years, the industry overall (which extends to hundreds of local papers throughout the country) experienced a sharp decline in ad revenue amid the Great Recession and has yet to recover.
Ad revenue historically has been the industry’s biggest single revenue stream, although many newspapers have made efforts in recent years to orient their business models more around revenue directly from readers – such as through online or print subscriptions. Despite this, overall circulation and subscription revenue has barely budged over the past 10 years.
Now, with the coronavirus-driven downturn, the six publicly traded newspaper companies analyzed here (which collectively own over 300 newspapers) have seen a year-over-year fall in both types of revenue.6
The median ad revenue among these publicly traded newspaper companies fell by 42% in the second quarter of 2020 when compared with the second quarter of 2019. This pattern was similar for all six newspaper companies analyzed here, with even the least-affected company, Gannett, showing a 35% decline in ad revenue year over year.
The two newspapers serving Salt Lake City and other parts of Utah have announced that they will switch from daily to once-a-week print editions early in 2021.
At the same time, executives of The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News said that their joint operating agreement, set to expire at the end of 2020, will not be renewed.
The JOA allowed the two to share printing and other business functions while keeping distinct news and editorial operations. Each will now need to bring that work back in-house.
Part of the transition will be to close a printing facility, which Deseret owns, that currently serves both papers. That will mean the loss of 161 jobs, the company said.
Deseret is also laying off 18 other employees, including six journalists. The Tribune said that it will retain all the journalists in its newsroom, roughly 65.