This headline probably belongs in the “dog bites man” file, but that doesn’t make it any less alarming (or depressing). Newspaper and magazine publishers suffered another round of revenue declines last year, and there were no signs to suggest that the rate of decrease might be moderating.
According to the latest quarterly report from the U.S. Census Bureau, total newspaper publishing revenues fell 6.3% from $7.12 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015 to $6.67 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016.
That contributed to a 4.4% decline in newspaper publishing revenues for the full year, from $26.55 billion in 2015 to $25.37 billion in 2016.
Magazine publishing revenues slipped 0.4% from $7.21 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015 to $7.18 billion in the fourth quarter of this year, contributing to a 3.2% drop for the full year, from $28.31 billion to $27.42 billion.
The 2016 decreases follow drops of 3.8% for newspapers and 3.7% for magazines in 2015, and 4.2% and 3.5%, respectively, in 2014.
Taking a longer view, over the last decade, newspaper revenues have tumbled by almost half, with a 45% decrease from $46.4 billion in 2007 to last year’s figure. Over the same period, magazine revenues fell 42% from a starting level of $47.5 billion in 2007.
The Census Bureau figures don’t include detailed numbers breaking down advertising and circulation revenues. The Newspaper Association of America and the Publishers Information Bureau have stopped publishing this benchmark data for newspapers and magazines.
The Census report also doesn’t provide separate figures for print and digital revenues, but results from individual publishers confirm that in most cases, digital growth has failed to offset print declines.
At Time Inc., for example, digital advertising revenues (excluding its recent acquisition of Viant) rose 15% or $50 million from $331 million in 2015 to $381 million in 2016. However, over the same period print, ad revenues fell 9%, or $124 million, from $1.32 billion to $1.2 billion.