Newspapers and Magazines

Newspapers and Magazines

Industry Outlook

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, overall employment in the publishing industry, including newspapers and magazines, is expected to decline through 2028. In newspaper publishing, this is mainly due to a drop in advertising revenue and readership as more people turn to the Internet, social media, and television for news. Also, corporate mergers and increased efficiency of publishing operations will result in a need for fewer employees. The Pew Research Center reported in 2019 that the newspaper workforce in general has dropped by 25 percent since 2008.

The coronavirus pandemic, which started in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, caused further damage to the newspapers and magazines industry. The pandemic hit the newspaper industry particularly hard. The Pew Research Center reported that advertising revenue dropped by 42 percent in mid-2020, compared to the same period in 2019, for the six publicly traded newspaper companies (including Gannett and Lee) it had studied. These newspaper companies also had barely any change in overall circulation and subscription revenue from 2010 through 2020. There are approximately 6,280 newspaper publishing businesses in the U.S., employing 120,920 people, according to the research group IBISWorld. In spite of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and expected economic recovery, the newspaper publishing business was projected to have a 2.2 percent decline in 2021, and the decline will continue through 2025. The magazine and periodical publishing industry in the U.S., composed of 4,590 businesses with total employment of 66,427, will also have continued decline through 2025. Consumers and advertisers will gravitate toward digital publications and podcasts.

The U.S. circulation of newspapers has dropped to its lowest level since 1944, when newspaper data was first available. In the 1940s, newspaper circulation was more than 40 million. In 2018, total daily newspaper circulation (print and digital) was about 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday, a drop by 8 percent and 9 percent respectively, compared to the previous year, according to a Pew Research Center report. Ad revenue for newspapers had also dropped by 13 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.

Digital advertising revenue grew by 23 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, according to an eMarketer report. In addition, digital ad revenue has tripled since 2011, when this data was first tracked. However, as described by the Pew report, "this growth in digital ad revenue has not been enough to make up for the decline in traditional ad revenue for some sectors. About a third of newspaper ad revenue (35 percent) now comes from digital, according to an analysis of SEC filings, but total ad revenue continues to fall."

The number of daily newspapers published in the U.S. dropped to approximately 1,286 in 2016 (the most recent data available), down from 1,331 in 2014. In 1977, there were about 1,700 daily newspapers in the U.S. Industry experts suggest the number will continue to shrink in the coming years. While most major cities supported two daily newspapers in the past—in the early 1900s about 689 cities had competing newspapers—in 2011 that number had dropped to only 11 cities with competing newspapers and has since continued to shrink. In addition to the growing competition from the Internet, social media, television, and radio as news sources, there is also strong competition between papers for a limited number of local advertisers who may not have the funds or the desire to advertise in two publications.

As more newspapers erect pay walls—that is, restricting online access to articles to paying subscribers—some of the lost revenue is being recaptured. For example, the Wall Street Journal, one of the nation's top newspapers with both print and digital editions, implemented a pay wall in the early 2000s and by 2016 had nearly 900,000 paid digital readers; as of 2018, there were nearly 1.4 million WSJ digital readers. The New York Times implemented a pay wall in 2007; in 2015 it reported 1.1 million digital-only readers, and that number has since grown to 4.7 million digital-only subscribers as of 2019.

The Pew Research Center reported no notable growth, however, in unique visitors to newspapers Web sites and digital-native news Web sites in the fourth quarters of 2017 and 2018, whereas Web site traffic has risen steadly in those same quarters from 2014 through 2016. Additionally, the time that visitors spent on those Web sites had also declined: 16 percent decline in digital-native news sites visits, falling from two-and-a-half minutes in 2016 to two minutes per visit in 2018. Pew cited this decline is due to the fact that "Americans increasingly say they prefer social media as a pathway to news."

Finding a reporting job on a daily newspaper has become tougher and tougher, as many dailies have folded. Pew Research Center reported that full-time editorial staff peaked at 56,900 in 1989 then dropped steadily through 2010, ultimately falling 27 percent. That trend has continued. As of September 2019, there were approximately 42,800 reporters and correspondents employed in the U.S., a more than 10 percent drop in employment from 2015, and nearly 50 percent drop since 2004. Overall employment in the newsroom is predicted to decline by about 10 to 12 percent through 2028, according to the Department of Labor. Those with strong skills that can transfer to writing for the Internet and with using social media to build readership for their publications using blogs, Twitter, and Facebook should find the best opportunities.

During the next decade, the best opportunities for reporters may be with newspapers in smaller towns and suburbs, both dailies and weeklies, where both populations and circulation are growing. Some major U.S. newspaper companies are expanding their operations overseas, particularly in Europe and Asia. There also are special interest newspapers for banking, business, law, labor, medicine, real estate, home furnishings, oil, and other industries, which will provide some employment opportunities. Black and ethnic newspapers (including German, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, and Spanish) number in the hundreds and also may provide limited employment opportunities.

The magazine industry is also predicted to decline through 2028. As more and more specialized publications are introduced to the marketplace, the competition for advertising dollars will remain great. It is estimated that the primary growth in the magazine industry will come from publications that target specialized audiences as the demand for specialized information, typically provided by some magazines, increases.

Most of this information, however, will be provided entirely on the Internet rather than in print. As more readers choose to access magazines online via smartphones and tablet computers, sales of magazine print editions continued to decline. The market research group Statista reported that the total revenue of U.S.-based magazine published has dropped from $46 billion in 2007 to about $28 billion in 2017. On the other hand, the number of magazines published in the U.S. has remained steady in recent years, with a slight increase, in fact, from 7,218 magazines in the U.S. in 2008, to about 7,383 in 2018.

The outlook for writing and editing jobs is expected to be keenly competitive. Opportunities will be best in firms that prepare business and trade publications and in technical writing. Yet, a growing demand for publications and the growth of advertising and public relations agencies should provide new jobs in the magazine industry. And as with newspapers, those who are technologically savvy and comfortable using the Internet and social media should have the best opportunities. Candidates with experience in Web site design and coding, as well as prior experience working for school newspapers and relevant media, will have the best job prospects.