Despite What You’ve Heard About Subscription Booms, The Media Is Still Tanking

By Michael P. Benard

Journalism today is a crash site. Onlookers see the debris field and wonder what happened. In July, for example, 28-year-old Ross Barkan, a self-described “American journalist and writer,” published an article in The Guardian’s U.S. edition with this headline: “Biggest Threat to Journalism Isn’t Donald Trump. It’s Declining Revenues.”

This promising headline devolved into name-calling in the first paragraph and throughout the article: “Donald Trump’s … fascist White House …. Trumpian nihilists …. winner-take-all capitalist system.” The headline got it right: Journalism is dying, but it’s not related to fascism, nihilism, or capitalism. Declining revenues really are the threat.

This will surprise some, because it contradicts declarations from The New York Times and a few big newspapers touting increased digital subscriptions. Digital circulation jumps, however, do not equate to revenue increases. Pew Research Center pointed out in June that, despite subscription increases for a few big newspapers, overall circulation and revenue for the industry are down.

The Newspaper Ship Is Sinking

According to Pew’s June report, total weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers—both print and digital—fell 8 percent in 2016, marking the 28th consecutive year of declines. The overall circulation decline coincided with a double-digit decline in advertising revenue for the …read more