America’s largest newspapers have struggled to recover from what many analysts considered certain extinction. These properties are at the point where they have some chance to continue, although as smaller companies. Circulation numbers from the nation’s ten largest newspapers, provided by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, for the six months that ended in September show that the recent sharp circulation drops have stopped in most cases for these properties. Data on advertising, both online and print, is not nearly as positive.
Publishers claimed that as the last recession deepened, their industry was in a cyclical decline. The industry would right itself financially when the economic trouble had passed. Most industry analysts disagreed. The problem was secular, they said. Online news outlets had taken away too many readers and too much advertising. Major newspapers had only a decade of life, if that.
The success of online subscription sales for some newspapers is the most positive change that has occurred. This is particularly true of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. They invest in news coverage that is broad and deep enough to make their content extremely valuable to large numbers of readers. Many subscribers recognize this value for these newspapers and are willing to pay to have access to articles online. This is an important point to consider since most online news is free.
24/7 Wall St. examined the fortunes of the ten largest newspapers in the United States by daily circulation. We have also looked at online visitors based on data from research firm Compete. What we found was that a small number of these properties have good financial prospects. The others are not much better off than they were at the depth of the recession, despite of the significant costs that they have cut from the business.