Being a student at Michigan State, I always find it a pleasant surprise whenever I find a newsstand and see all of that days’ papers gone. But its never on an everyday basis. I remember growing up and having to get the local daily paper for my parents at the foot of the driveway.
Those days, however, are long gone. Newspaper circulation and subscriptions continue to nosedive at a historic pace, according to an article from the Pew Research Center. After reaching an all-time peak of 63 million in the mid-1980s, newsprint circulation stayed mostly stagnant through the ’90s — but after almost 25 consecutive years of industry-wide decline, circulation is at its lowest point since the ’40s.
I graduate in 13 weeks with a degree in journalism. My best career prospects stem from an eight-semester stint at my college paper, where we’ve transitioned from a daily publication to once-weekly. Just this morning, one of my friends and mentors from the Detroit Free Press told me to explore looking into getting another degree.
This was actual career advise a 20-plus year journalism veteran was giving me. Seeing his paper is about to be put in a stranglehold brought on by the possible purchase of Gannett, I can get why things don’t look good.
But digital may become the saving grace of legacy publications. According to the same series of studies from the Pew Research Center, digital advertising revenues have continued to surpass previous all-time highs, with last year raising $90.3 billion compared to $116 billion raised by non-digital advertising.
Obviously, digital advertising revenue has to make up for the billions lost in traditional print and is still many years off from coming even close to make print as profitable as it once was.
Legacies like The Dallas Morning News just made a 43-person round of layoffs fairly recently and its not the only publication to make steep staff cuts this year. The question for publications like these will be if they can hold out long enough to completely make the switch from print to digital without going bell-side up.
That doesn’t change the fact many reporters now are tasked with doing the jobs of many: podcasting, reporting, editing, producing and fan engagement all fall on many journalists.
Hopefully, by the time I walk across the stage with my $60,000-degree in hand, it will actually be able to land me a profitable and prosperous career. Newsrooms are living, breathing entities and have seemed to reach rock bottom, though, bedrock may still be a while away.
Hopefully, in that tailspin that has become my industry, it has nowhere to go but up.