Category: Digital Media

The Publishing Industry: Then & Now

Thanks to computer technology, the publishing industry isn't what it once was. Print journalism is fading, while digital media continues to see more revenue. Rather than worrying about column widths, typefaces and banner headlines, media companies analyze search engine optimization, keywords, conforming to Google's standards, adding the right images and generating the right length for each piece. A lot of changes happened in the past 25 years when the internet was just starting out in the early 1990s. Take a look at some amazing facts about the publishing industry then and now.

As of 2016, total weekday circulation of daily U.S. newspapers fell to 35 million, which is the lowest level since 1945.

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Daily circulation of print newspapers fell every year for 28 straight years. On the upside, digital subscriptions keep rising. The largest daily newspaper in the United States, the New York Times, saw an additional 500,000 digital subscriptions in 2016, which was a whopping 47 percent increase from the year before. Newspapers receive 29 percent of their revenue from online sources. Newspapers that survived the digital revolution leveraged their content to online sources more rapidly to keep up with online trends, whereas newspapers that faltered could not.

Revenues from print newspapers plummeted by nearly two-thirds in the span of 11 years, from $44.9 billion in 2003 to $16.4 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, digital revenue for advertisements remained almost flat from 2006 to 2014 at $3.5 billion per year.

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Ad revenue for newspapers saw a shift that followed the demise of print circulation numbers. Newspapers can blame Craigslist, the online classified advertisement website, for a 40 percent drop in revenue. Instead of paying for classified ads, people could post them for free through an online source. The only way newspapers can seem to make money in 2017 is by optimizing their subscription fees and unique visitor numbers. The top 50 newspapers in the United States receive 11.7 million unique visitors per month.

New books published in 2007 topped 600,000. In 2016, that figure grew to over 1 million.

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Books followed similar patterns to newspapers when it comes to online versus print. The reason is due to online publishing. A staggering 700,000 books were self-published in 2015, an amazing increase of 375 percent from 2010. Around 300,000 books made it to the public through traditional means in 2013. Despite these huge gains, revenue from book sales is actually going down from its peak in 2007. Sales in American bookstores were down 37 percent from 2007 to 2015. Overall book sales topped 857 million units in 2015, a slight dip from the 862 million units sold in 2013.

As many as 43 percent of consumers skim blog posts for information. Around 15 percent of internet users comment on discussion forums.

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Perhaps the changes in the publishing industry are due to the way Americans consume their information. Rather than just read the news, people want to interact with those who report the news. Take a look at the meteoric rise of the Huffington Post, an online-only media company founded in 2005, with $14 million in monthly revenue in 2017. HuffPo is worth more than $1 billion overall, and it makes all of its money from sponsored advertising revenue across many channels. Engadget also has amazing revenue at $5.5 million per month, and all of that comes from online advertising.

More than 6.7 million people write blogs through blogging websites, and Blogger itself sees 46 million unique visitors per month.

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Blogs far outweigh print media in terms of ways people publish information. There are more than 1 billion active websites and 300 million blogs. Compare that to less than 1,500 daily newspapers in traditional print formats. Anyone can start their own blog with a dedicated website or using blogging websites such as Blogger. Another 12 million people blog through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Rather than get their information by reading the morning paper every day, the average user may find their best reading material through their smartphone. 

The takeaway from the publishing industry then and now is that success is a matter of numbers. Whereas the New York Times sees less revenue than it did in the past, digital media companies that never had print versions know how to rake in the cash on a monthly basis. It's all in perspective. The world's top digital media properties, such as Google, Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft, measure success by the number of unique visitors per month to generate advertising revenue. Maybe the publishing industry should take a cue from digital media properties and do the same thing. Rather than rely on daily circulation, books and newspapers could look towards unique visitors to earn more money. It's all a part of the ongoing digital revolution.


Maranda Jones

Marketing Director at SquareOffs #OnwardandUpward

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