The recession and continued economic slump have taken a bite out of many industries in the last few years, but one of the hardest hit sectors has been newspaper publishing, which has been shrinking at a rate faster than most as advertising and circulation have been in a downward spiral for years, with no end in sight.
According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the newspaper publishing industry has fallen from 414,000 in 2001, to 246,200 in 2011, representing a whopping 40.6% decline in the last decade. Between 2009 and 2010 employment fell 16.2% to 258,950.
These figures are in line with the cutback at some of the largest newspaper companies in the U.S. Leading the way was McClatchy, which chopped 53.5% of its jobs, followed by 40% cuts at both Gannett and The New York Times.
The industry which was still flourishing at the beginning of the last decade, started to see its fortunes decline as the Internet began to gain a toehold, gradually siphoning readers away from the printed page. Then came the hammer blow of the financial crisis of 2008, a deep recession and a collapse in the advertising market, that combined to turn newspapers from cash generating machines to anchors that sent several publishers deep into the red and in some cases completely out of business.
While the job losses moderated a bit over the last year, down only 5%, the recent moves by Advance Publications to reduce the frequency of their printed newspapers and mostly to the web, shows that the industry is still not out of the woods yet.
I recently asked a group of teenagers if they read a newspaper. Out of the twenty-plus teens, only two admitted to reading a printed newspaper on a regular basis and that was just the sports page. Everyone else received their news via the Internet in one fashion or another. That is not good news for an industry built on paper and ink, where the news is delivered once a day, and is now struggling in a world of smartphones, tablets and other devices, where instant gratification is the norm.