Thursday, May 23, 2024

Newspapers Fact Sheet

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Table of Contents

Newspapers are a critical part of the American news landscape, but they have been hit hard as more and more Americans consume news digitally. The industry’s financial fortunes and subscriber base have been in decline since the mid-2000s, and their website audience traffic has begun to decline as well. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data of U.S. newspapers below.

Audience

In 2022, estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) was 20.9 million for both weekday and Sunday, down 8% and 10% respectively from 2021.


Total estimated circulation of U.S. daily newspapers

Total circulation of U.S. daily newspapers

Year Weekday Sunday Weekday (estimated) Sunday (estimated)
1940 41,132,000 32,371,000    
1945 48,384,000 39,860,000    
1946 50,928,000 43,665,000    
1947 51,673,000 45,151,000    
1948 52,285,000 46,308,000    
1949 52,846,000 46,399,000    
1950 53,829,000 46,582,000    
1951 54,018,000 46,279,000    
1952 53,951,000 46,210,000    
1953 54,472,000 45,949,000    
1954 55,072,000 46,176,000    
1955 56,147,000 46,448,000    
1956 57,102,000 47,162,000    
1957 57,805,000 47,044,000    
1958 57,418,000 46,955,000    
1959 58,300,000 47,848,000    
1960 58,882,000 47,699,000    
1961 59,261,000 48,216,000    
1962 59,849,000 48,888,000    
1963 58,905,000 46,830,000    
1964 60,412,000 48,383,000    
1965 60,358,000 48,600,000    
1966 61,397,000 49,282,000    
1967 61,561,000 49,224,000    
1968 62,535,000 49,693,000    
1969 62,060,000 49,675,000    
1970 62,108,000 49,217,000    
1971 62,231,000 49,665,000    
1972 62,510,000 50,001,000    
1973 63,147,000 51,717,000    
1974 61,877,000 51,679,000    
1975 60,655,000 51,096,000    
1976 60,977,000 51,565,000    
1977 61,495,000 52,429,000    
1978 61,990,000 53,990,000    
1979 62,223,000 54,380,000    
1980 62,202,000 54,676,000    
1981 61,431,000 55,180,000    
1982 62,487,000 56,261,000    
1983 62,645,000 56,747,000    
1984 63,340,000 57,574,000    
1985 62,766,000 58,826,000    
1986 62,502,000 58,925,000    
1987 62,826,000 60,112,000    
1988 62,695,000 61,474,000    
1989 62,649,000 62,008,000    
1990 62,328,000 62,635,000    
1991 60,687,000 62,068,000    
1992 60,164,000 62,160,000    
1993 59,812,000 62,566,000    
1994 59,305,000 62,295,000    
1995 58,193,000 61,229,000    
1996 56,983,000 60,798,000    
1997 56,728,000 60,486,000    
1998 56,182,000 60,066,000    
1999 55,979,000 59,894,000    
2000 55,773,000 59,421,000    
2001 55,578,000 59,090,000    
2002 55,186,000 58,780,000    
2003 55,185,000 58,495,000    
2004 54,626,000 57,754,000    
2005 53,345,000 55,270,000    
2006 52,329,000 53,179,000    
2007 50,742,000 51,246,000    
2008 48,597,000 49,115,000    
2009 45,653,000 46,164,000    
2010    
2011 44,421,000 48,510,000    
2012 43,433,000 44,821,000    
2013 40,712,000 43,292,000    
2014 40,420,000 42,751,000    
2015     37,711,860 40,955,458
2016     34,657,199 37,801,888
2017     30,948,419 33,971,695
2018     28,554,137 30,817,351
2019     25,952,584 27,389,866
2020     24,299,333 25,785,036
2021 22,697,243 23,351,326
2022 20,943,023 20,943,889

Note: To determine totals for 2015 onward, researchers analyzed the year-over-year change in total weekday and Sunday circulation using AAM data and applied these percent changes to the previous year’s total. Only those daily U.S. newspapers that report to AAM are included. Affiliated publications are not included in the analysis. Weekday circulation only includes those publications reporting a Monday-Friday average. Comparisons are either between the three-month averages for the period ending Dec. 31 of the given year and the same period of the previous year (2015-2019), the six-month period ending Sept. 30 and the three-month period ending Sept. 30 of the previous year (2020), or the six-month period ending Sept. 30 of the given year and the same period of the previous year (2021-2022).

Source: Editor & Publisher (through 2014); estimate based on Pew Research Center analysis of Alliance for Audited Media data (2015-2022).

PEW RESEARCH CENTER


(Note that the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), the source of this circulation data and the group that audits the circulation figures of many of the largest North American newspapers and other publications, changed their reporting period in 2020 from a three-month period to a six-month period. Additional details about how the circulation estimate is calculated can be found in the methodological note below.)

Within this total circulation figure, weekday print circulation decreased 13% and Sunday print circulation decreased 16% from the previous year.

Digital circulation is more difficult to gauge. Using only the AAM data, digital circulation in 2022 is projected to have remained relatively stable. But three of the highest-circulation daily papers in the U.S. – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post – have in recent years not fully reported their digital circulation to AAM. The Times and the Journal provide data on digital subscriptions in publicly available reports, but since this is not the same as circulation and may not be counted under the same rules used by AAM, these independently produced figures cannot easily be merged with the AAM data. If these independently produced figures were included with the AAM data in both 2021 and 2022, weekday digital circulation would have risen sharply, by 22%.


Estimated newspaper circulation using two different data sources

Total weekday circulation of U.S. daily newspapers using data from …

Date AAM only NYT/WSJ subscriptions plus AAM
2016 34,657,199 34,657,199
2017 30,948,419 33,291,558
2018 28,554,137 32,961,320
2019 25,952,584 32,359,455
2020 24,299,333 35,644,533
2021 22,697,243 38,216,679
2022 20,943,023 42,972,898

Note: Researchers analyzed the year-over-year change in total weekday circulation using AAM data and applied these percent changes to the previous year’s total. Only those daily U.S. newspapers that report to AAM are included. Affiliated publications are not included in the analysis. Weekday circulation only includes those publications reporting a Monday-Friday average. Comparisons are either between the three-month averages for the period ending Dec. 31 of the given year and the same period of the previous year (2016-2019), the six-month period ending Sept. 30 and the three-month period ending Sept. 30 of the previous year (2020), or the six-month period ending Sept. 30 of the given year and the same period of the previous year (2021-2022).

Source: Estimate based on Pew Research Center analysis of Alliance for Audited Media data and subscription data from SEC filings and audited reports.

PEW RESEARCH CENTER


The addition of these figures also changes the overall picture for combined print and digital circulation. Before 2020, including these subscription numbers with the AAM circulation data would not have changed the overall circulation picture, as total circulation would still decline. From 2020 onward, however, including the Times’ and the Journal’s digital subscribers reverses the trend. In 2022, total weekday circulation would rise by 12% – not fall by 8%, as is the case when looking strictly at the AAM data. For comparison, the chart above shows estimated total weekday circulation using just the AAM data and when the digital subscriber numbers from the Times and Journal are included over the past seven years. For more details on how this affects our estimates and conclusions, read this post from 2020 on our Decoded blog.


Unique visitors of newspaper websites

Average monthly unique visitors to the top 50 U.S. newspapers by circulation

Year (Q4) Average monthly unique visitors
2014 8,233,544
2015 9,709,071
2016 11,734,536
2017 11,527,744
2018 11,600,124
2019 12,149,197
2020 13,866,542
2021 11,119,111
2022 8,839,848

Note: For each year, the average traffic for each website for October/November/December was calculated; the data point represents the overall average of those numbers. Analysis is of the top 49 newspapers by average Sunday circulation for Q3 2015-2019 and the six-month period ending Sept. 30 for 2020 onward, according to Alliance for Audited Media data, with the addition of The Wall Street Journal. For each newspaper, the Comscore entity matching its homepage URL was analyzed.

Source: Comscore Media Metrix® Multi-Platform, US, Unique Visitors, October-December 2014-2022.

PEW RESEARCH CENTER


Gauging digital audience for the entire newspaper industry is difficult since many daily newspapers do not receive enough traffic to their websites to be measured by Comscore, the data source relied on here. Thus, the figures offered above reflect the top 50 U.S. daily newspapers based on circulation. In the fourth quarter of 2022, there were an average 8.8 million monthly unique visitors (across all devices) for these top 50 newspapers. This is down 20% from 2021, which itself was a 20% decrease from 2020.

(The list of top 50 papers is based on Sunday circulation but includes The Wall Street Journal, which does not report Sunday circulation to AAM. It also includes The Washington Post and The New York Times, which make the top 50 even though they do not fully report their digital circulation to AAM. For more details and the full list of newspapers, read our methodology.)


Visit duration of newspaper websites

Average minutes per visit for the top 50 U.S. newspapers by circulation

Year (Q4) Average minutes per visit
2014 2.59
2015 2.59
2016 2.45
2017 2.44
2018 2.32
2019 2.10
2020 1.82
2021 1.56
2022 1.48

Note: For each year, the average minutes per visit for each website for October/November/December was calculated; the data point represents the overall average of those numbers. Analysis is of the top 49 newspapers by average Sunday circulation for Q3 2015-2019 and the six-month period ending Sept. 30 for 2020 onward, according to Alliance for Audited Media data, with the addition of The Wall Street Journal. For each newspaper, the Comscore entity matching its homepage URL was analyzed.

Source: Comscore Media Metrix® Multi-Platform, US, Average Minutes Per Visit, October-December 2014-2022.

PEW RESEARCH CENTER


Average minutes per visit for the top 50 U.S. daily newspapers, based on circulation, was just under 1 minute and 30 seconds in Q4 2022. This represents a 43% decline from when we first began tracking this in Q4 2014, when the average minutes per visit was just over 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Economics

The total estimated advertising revenue for the newspaper industry in 2022 was $9.8 billion, based on the Center’s analysis of financial statements for publicly traded newspaper companies. This is down 5% from 2021, a slight drop. Total estimated circulation revenue was $11.6 billion, compared with $11.5 billion in 2020.


Estimated advertising and circulation revenue of the newspaper industry

Total revenue of U.S. newspapers (in U.S. dollars)

Year Advertising ($) Circulation ($) Advertising ($, estimated) Circulation ($, estimated)
1956 3,223,000,000 1,344,492,000    
1957 3,268,000,000 1,373,464,000    
1958 3,176,000,000 1,459,013,000    
1959 3,526,000,000 1,549,576,000    
1960 3,681,000,000 1,604,228,000    
1961 3,601,000,000 1,684,319,000    
1962 3,659,000,000 1,819,840,000    
1963 3,780,000,000 1,901,820,000    
1964 4,120,000,000 1,983,809,000    
1965 4,426,000,000 2,023,090,000    
1966 4,865,000,000 2,109,050,000    
1967 4,910,000,000 2,180,242,000    
1968 5,232,000,000 2,288,215,000    
1969 5,714,000,000 2,425,446,000    
1970 5,704,000,000 2,634,402,000    
1971 6,167,000,000 2,833,320,000    
1972 6,939,000,000 2,929,233,000    
1973 7,481,000,000 3,037,820,000    
1974 7,842,000,000 3,581,733,000    
1975 8,234,000,000 3,921,515,000    
1976 9,618,000,000 4,087,303,000    
1977 10,751,000,000 4,310,236,000    
1978 12,213,000,000 4,534,779,000    
1979 13,863,000,000 4,950,542,000    
1980 14,794,000,000 5,469,589,000    
1981 16,527,000,000 6,206,141,000    
1982 17,694,000,000 6,656,661,000    
1983 20,581,000,000 7,044,098,000    
1984 23,522,000,000 7,368,158,000    
1985 25,170,000,000 7,659,297,000    
1986 26,990,000,000 8,052,148,000    
1987 29,412,000,000 8,399,032,000    
1988 31,197,000,000 8,046,287,000    
1989 32,368,000,000 8,370,324,000    
1990 32,280,000,000      
1991 30,349,000,000 8,697,679,000    
1992 30,639,000,000 9,163,534,000    
1993 31,869,000,000 9,193,802,000    
1994 34,109,000,000 9,443,217,000    
1995 36,092,000,000 9,720,186,000    
1996 38,075,000,000 9,969,240,000    
1997 41,330,000,000 10,065,642,000    
1998 43,925,000,000 10,266,955,000    
1999 46,289,000,000 10,472,294,000    
2000 48,670,000,000 10,540,643,000    
2001 44,305,000,000 10,783,078,000    
2002 44,102,000,000 11,025,896,000    
2003 46,156,000,000 11,224,362,000    
2004 48,244,000,000 10,988,651,000    
2005 49,435,000,000 10,746,901,000    
2006 49,275,402,572 10,548,344,000    
2007 45,375,000,000 10,294,920,096    
2008 37,848,257,630 10,086,956,940    
2009 27,564,000,000 10,066,783,026    
2010 25,837,698,822 10,049,360,689    
2011 27,078,473,864 9,989,064,525    
2012 25,316,461,215 10,448,561,493    
2013     23,587,097,435 10,641,662,892
2014     22,077,809,951 10,744,324,061
2015     20,362,238,293 10,870,292,720
2016     18,274,943,567 10,910,460,499
2017     16,476,453,084 11,211,011,020
2018     14,346,024,182 10,995,341,920
2019     12,864,064,241 11,016,643,128
2020     9,601,389,155 11,053,729,516
2021 10,264,430,205 11,524,949,565
2022 9,760,830,024 11,606,129,049

Source: News Media Alliance, formerly Newspaper Association of America (through 2012); Pew Research Center analysis of year-end SEC filings of publicly traded newspaper companies (2013-2022).

PEW RESEARCH CENTER


In the chart above, data through 2012 comes from the trade group formerly known as the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), now known as the News Media Alliance (NMA). Data from 2013 onward is based on the Center’s analysis of financial statements from publicly traded U.S. newspaper companies, which in 2022 numbered four and accounted for about 300 U.S. daily newspapers, from large national papers to midsize metro dailies and local papers.

From 2013 onward, the year-over-year percentage change in advertising and circulation revenue for these companies is calculated and then applied to the previous year’s revenue totals as reported by the NMA/NAA. In testing this method, changes from 2006 through 2012 generally matched those as reported by the NMA/NAA; for more details, read our 2016 report.


Share of newspaper advertising revenue coming from digital advertising

% of newspaper companies’ advertising revenue coming from digital advertising

Year Advertising revenue coming from digital advertising
2011 17%
2012 19%
2013 20%
2014 21%
2015 25%
2016 29%
2017 31%
2018 35%
2019 35%
2020 39%
2021 45%
2022 48%

Source: Pew Research Center analysis of year-end SEC filings for publicly traded newspaper companies that break out digital advertising revenue for each year.

PEW RESEARCH CENTER


Digital advertising accounted for 48% of newspaper advertising revenue in 2022, based on this analysis of publicly traded newspaper companies. This follows a steady increase from 17% in 2011, the first year it was possible to perform this analysis.

Methodological note

In this fact sheet, circulation data through 2014 is from Editor & Publisher, which was published on the website of the News Media Alliance (NMA), known at the time as the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). The NMA no longer supplies this data, so the Center determined the year-over-year change in total circulation for those daily U.S. newspapers that report to the Alliance for Audited Media and meet certain criteria. This percentage change was then applied to the total circulation from the prior year – thus the use of the term “estimated total circulation.” This technique is also used to create the revenue estimates, using the financial statements of publicly traded newspaper companies as the data source.

Find out more

This fact sheet was compiled by Research Assistants Sarah Naseer and Christopher St. Aubin.

Read the methodology.

Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Find more in-depth explorations of U.S. newspapers by following the links below:

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