The decline in newspaper circulation is a topic I’ve begun to explore for the forthcoming book on the history of the Internet. In May 2009, the Newspaper Association of America issued figures revealing a 29.7% decline in US newspapers’ print advertising revenues in a single quarter at the beginning of 2009. This presumably is partly due to a gathering economic crisis affecting the economy at large. Indeed, the newspapers’ online advertising revenue also declined, but by only 13.4%. Yet figures for the first quarter of the previous year, 2008, reveal the trend: print advertising had declined 14.38% while the newspapers’ online advertising rose by 7.20%.
Data on the rise and fall in newspaper circulation between 1940 and 2008 reveals a trend that correlates with Internet expansion. Newspaper circulation grew steadily from the 1940s to the 1990s. In 1989 newspaper circulation reached over 62,000,000 and remained in this bracket until 1995 when it began a gradual annual decline. Note here that 1995 marks the privatization of the Internet and an explosion in the number of computers connected to the Internet from 3.8 million in late 1994 to 12.8 million in mid 1996. Between 1995 and 2003 circulation fell to 58,500,000. In 2004 the decline gathered pace, plummeting to 49,115,000 in 2008.
By 2008 the number of newspapers sold in the United States was the same as in 1966. More anon…
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