More grim news for US newspapers: survey

The number of employees in US newspaper newsrooms has fallen sharply over the past decade, according to a new survey (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB) (AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - The troubled picture for US newspapers became even grimmer in 2017 with declines in revenue and both print and digital readership, a new research report showed Wednesday.

The newspaper industry has been declining for the past decade, and the latest drops suggest deepening woes for the sector despite a handful of large publications which have been showing signs of growth.

The Pew Research Center found total US daily newspaper circulation, print and digital combined, was 31 million for weekday and 34 million for Sunday in 2017, down 11 and 10 percent, respectively, from the previous year.

But the researchers excluded digital circulation figures from two major newspapers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, whose subscriber data is not audited.

The New York Times reported a 42 percent gain in digital circulation and The Wall Street Journal a 26 percent rise.

If the independently produced figures were included in both 2016 and 2017, weekday digital circulation would have risen by 10 percent, according to Pew.

But even if it included the digital gains for the two big dailies, overall combined weekday circulation for US newspapers would still be down by four percent in 2017, the report said.

Pew researcher Mike Barthel said one of the factors which may have affected the survey was that 2017 was a post-election year.

The researchers lacked enough data to determine whether the declines were consistent with other post-election periods.

Still, 2017 marked another year of declines for newspaper revenue and jobs, according to the researchers.

Advertising revenue for 2017 was $16.5 billion, down 10 percent from the prior year, based on financial statements for publicly traded newspaper companies.

Circulation revenue -- which included both digital print subscriptions -- was one of the few bright spots, showing a three percent gain to $11.2 billion.

Based on official US government data, Pew said 39,210 people worked as reporters, editors, photographers, or film and video editors in the newspaper industry in 2017.

That represented a drop of nearly eight percent in a year and 45 percent from 2004.

Even as traditional newspapers decline, pure digital media groups fared little better, seeing a nearly five percent drop in total audience in 2017, according to an earlier Pew report.