By Nathalie Voit
American newspapers have sustained a dramatic drop in revenue over the last two decades as the print publishing industry loses to digital media.
Between 2002 and 2020, newspaper publishing companies saw revenues drop by more than half, from $46.2 billion in 2002 to $22.1 billion nearly two decades later, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Service Annual Survey (SAS).
From 2002 to 2010, the survey said newspaper publishers took a 28% hit to their revenue. Ten years later, the industry sustained another 34% decrease.
Periodical publishers, who print and distribute medical and scientific journals and religious and academic publications, also reported widespread losses during that same period. Estimated revenue from periodical publishing fell from $40.2 billion in 2002 to $23.9 billion in 2020, a decline of more than 40%. The sector posted a 21% drop in revenue from 2002 to 2010 and a 25.0% decrease from 2010 to 2020.
In 2020, the bureau said Video Tape and Disc Rental revenue was $1.1 billion, or nearly one-ninth of what it was in 2002 ($9.4 billion). SAS data showed that video tape and disc rental retailers sustained a 35% decline in revenue between 2002 and 2010 and an 82% decrease from 2010 to 2020.
The Census said the decline in revenue coincides with the rise of online video rental companies at the turn of the century and, later, the growing popularity of video streaming.
For publishers, the bureau said weak advertising sales paved the way for the industry’s downfall. While revenue from the subscription and sale of newspapers rose by around 10%, from $8 billion to $8.8 billion between 2013 and 2020, advertising sales during that time period plummeted from $16 billion to just over $10 billion, essentially wiping out any gains made during those seven years.
In response to those historic losses, newspaper publishers responded by slashing jobs and streamlining operations. The total number of newsroom staff fell from 74,000 at its peak in 2006 to just over 30,000 fourteen years later, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey showed.
At the same time, online publishing companies and web search portals like Facebook, Google, and Amazon experienced massive revenue growth fueled by the internet’s prevalence in modern American life. The bureau said advertising across Big Tech platforms more than tripled from $49.3 billion in 2013 to $160 billion in 2020 as the market increasingly favored digital media over traditional print.
“The rise of digital media and technology has transformed the way we access our news and entertainment,” wrote Adam Grundy, a supervisory statistician in the Census Bureau’s Economic Management Division, in a government news release. “It’s also had a devastating impact on print publishing industries.”