564: Subscribed News

Would you (or do you) pay for a newspaper subscription? Why or why not?


Full episode script

It is an incredibly interesting time to be in the news gathering and reporting industry. Statistics are very mixed. According to the Pew Research Center, newspapers are experiencing a big increase in subscriptions, but a big decrease in advertising revenue. Most interestingly, circulation in the same time period studied went down.

 

Quoting from a 2017 article in Wired about newspaper subscriptions:

Between 2004 and 2016, the amount local businesses spent on print newspaper ads fell from $44.4 billion to $12.9 billion. According to Borrell Associates, a Virginia-based research firm that tracks local ad spending, within five years very few local papers will have the resources to publish daily.

 

So… what gives? Advertising didn’t really become an overpowering force in newspaper revenue until the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the current decline after a few heady decades is really tough to swallow.

 

Could subscriptions be enough to save journalism? It’s a great question. One that the American Press Institute has been studying extensively. In May of 2017, they took a close look at who subscribes to newspapers and why. They found that, contrary to so-called conventional wisdom, quote:

slightly more than half of all U.S. adults subscribe to news in some form—and roughly half of those to a newspaper. And contrary to the idea that young people will not pay for news because information on the internet is free, nearly 4 in 10 adults under age 35 are paying for news. Most subscribers see themselves as primarily print-oriented or digitally oriented—only 4 percent describe themselves as a combination of print and digital. People are drawn to news in general for two reasons above others: A desire to be informed citizens (newspaper subscribers in particular are highly motivated by this) and because the publication they subscribe to excels at covering certain topics about which those subscribers particularly care.

So more than half of all US adults choose to spend their money to support journalism of some form. Are you one of them?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.