Fewer and fewer people
are buying newspapers today!
Between 1950 and 2010, the paid circulation of daily newspapers fell devastatingly in Canada, Great Britain and the United State of America. The collapse continues today with the closing of more newspapers in communities large and small. Particularly the small!
In 1950, British national daily newspapers sold about 21 million copies every working day. By 2010 they only sold 10.1 million. As a percentage of households that was a drop from 150 per cent of households to only 31 per cent. The fall in sales for Sunday papers was more dramatic. Publishers sold 31 million papers each Sunday in 1950 but only 9.9 million copies each Sunday in 2010. In household terms that was a crushing fall from 200 per cent of households to only 39 per cent.
Six companies in the UK account for over 80% of local newspaper titles – more than four times the combined number of titles published by the remaining 56 publishers – and 85% of revenue.
Three companies in Canada own 60% of daily newspaper titles and a growing percentage of the over 1,000 community newspaper titles in Canada.
In Canada, total daily newspaper paid circulation in 1950 was equivalent to more than 100 per cent of households; by 2010 it was about 30 per cent.
The decline of local newspapers is common in communities everywhere. Weekly papers are disappearing and the dailies that still publish have fewer and fewer pages and less and less local news.
The Guardian in the United Kingdom reported how the loss of a weekly paper affected the people of the borough of Walsall, a market town in the West Midlands of England nestled between Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Lichfield.
Walsall “ has a council, a magistrates court, several MPs and a lot of residents who want to know what is going on in their local area, one of the country’s most deprived. “ writes Jim Waterson, Media editor of The Guardian. “What it is lacking is journalists to provide the goods – and an answer to the wider question of what local news should look like in 2019.”
The 300,000 residents of Walsall lost their last remaining newspaper in 2009. The Walsall Observer, founded in 1868, was a regional weekly that survived its rival and absorbed such competitors as the Walsall Advertiser. But by 1990 the paid circulation was dropping and the Observer became a free newspaper.
By 2006, it had gone from nine journalists on staff 25 years earlier to one senior, one trainee, and an editor shared with two other weekly papers; and, the National Union of Journalists charged, was reduced to a situation where “the paper largely regurgitates submitted material and press releases with little or no challenge.”.
In 2009, owners Trinity Mirror closed it down along with several other Midlands weeklies.
Will local news survive?
The Expanding News Desert and the website, http://www.usnewsdeserts.com, offers extensive results of research into the health of local journalism in the United States of America. It was produced by Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media in the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The research raises questions about the ownership of newspapers, where have they disappeared, is digital filling the void, where are the ethnic voices and is public broadcasting an answer.
Report sections include:
The News Landscape in 2020: Transformed and Diminished
- Vanishing newspapers
- Vanishing readers and journalists
- The News Media giants
The News Landscape of the Future: Transformed…and Renewed?
- The challenges and opportunities for ethnic media
- A bigger role for public broadcasting
- The path forward: reinventing local news