Study: Newspaper circulation revenue surpasses advertising for first time

For the first time ever, the newspaper industry earned more money last year from circulation than advertising.

Yet like many of the other benchmarks noted this week by the Pew Research Center in the first of a series of reports on the state of the news media, that’s not necessarily good news.

Circulation revenue, from people buying digital or print subscriptions, reached $11.1 billion in 2020, Pew said. The newspaper industry reported $8.8 billion in ad revenue last year.

In 2006, in the early stages of the internet eating away at the industry, newspapers reported $49.3 billion in advertising revenue. Circulation revenue in 2006 was much the same as it was last year.

Pew’s estimate of weekday newspaper circulation, which is complicated by the move to digital and some different reporting sources, was 24.3 million last year. Twenty years ago, it was 57.8 million.

Newspaper newsroom employment stood at 74,410 in 2006, the last year that figure grew over the previous year. In 2020, there were 30,820 people in newsrooms.

The median wage for editors last year was $50,010, or $2,104 less than it was in 2012, Pew said.

Where’s the growth? Earlier this year, Edison Research and Triton Digital estimate 41% of Americans aged 12 and up had listened to a podcast in the past month, up from 9% in 2008.

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