One out of every eight subscribers to print publications is leaving each year. At its peak in the 1980s, their daily circulation exceeded 63 million, but it is currently only approximately one-third that amount. Here’s a list of the top 25 US newspapers by daily circulation.
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You would have opened your newspaper a few years ago and read this kind of commentary and analysis. Those times have passed.
More than 8 in 10 Americans currently acquire their news from digital sources, such as apps, podcasts, or skimming through feeds on social media as Visual Capitalist’s Avery Koop explains below.
It is not surprising then, that only one of the top 25 most widely read American newspapers witnessed an increase in daily print circulation during the past year.
This graph compares the daily newspaper distribution rates of several American newspapers year over year using information from Press Gazette.
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The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is by far the most extensively distributed print newspaper; it distributes almost 700,000 copies daily. But it is crucial to remember that this figure has dropped by 11% since 2021.
Although their print circulation is declining, these journals continue to be very well-read publications online, not just in the United States but all over the world. For instance, the New York Times claimed early this year that it had 9 million subscribers worldwide.
The Villages Daily Sun, a Florida retirement community newspaper, was the only publication to see a rise in print circulation. The most ardent print newspaper readers are typically the elderly. The Tampa Bay Times, a different Florida newspaper, had the poorest showing with a -26 percent.
Since 2005, 2,500 American newspapers have closed their doors. By 2025, it is anticipated that one-third of American newspapers would go out of business. This has an especially negative effect on smaller communities, leaving many in America in “news deserts.”
The downward trend is consistent. One out of every eight subscribers to print publications is leaving each year. At its peak in the 1980s, their daily circulation exceeded 63 million, but it is currently only approximately one-third that amount. In the past 15 years, more than 25% of American newspapers have shut down.
As Charles Lipson of RealClearPolitics.com points out, some observers, particularly conservative ones, have been dubious of today’s media landscape, blaming the collapse of print publications on “woke” newsrooms. They have confused the cart for the horse. Most newsrooms are, indeed, woke, woke, woke. Elite law firms, consultancy firms, social media behemoths, entertainment corporations, advertising firms, university staff, and so on are all included. Their employees, who have received ideological indoctrination at institutions such as Harvard, Brown, and Oberlin, tell us their pronouns in every email and wonder if Bernie Sanders is too moderate. They control today’s journalism, and their supremacy is reflected in the content of their papers.
In a country evenly divided between left and right, that slant irritates many readers, and some have probably canceled their subscriptions. Some newspapers also died during the pandemic, albeit most were already doomed. However, the coronavirus and ideological bias are not the primary reasons why print newspapers are on the verge of extinction. They are on this path because technological progress has destroyed their previous business model.
This technological trend promotes newsroom bias. Why? Because, as internet sites multiply, readers will naturally gravitate toward those that represent their own opinions. This self-selection enhances the sites’ incentives to customize their content in order to retain those users and recruit more of the same.
News organizations choose their target audience in this divided market with many different specializations. MSNBC’s target audience is progressive. The channel’s goal is to recruit more of them rather than to dispute their beliefs or to attract a few conservatives. PJ Media, on the other hand, is attempting to reach out to more conservatives rather than pursuing leftists in vain. That is basic marketing. The issue for journalism is that this “niche” approach has corrupted general-interest publications such as the Los Angeles Times. It allows ideological prejudice among reporters and editors to flourish, mingling their editorial viewpoint with “hard news” coverage.
The logic underlying this bias is compelling. We are all drawn to websites that affirm our beliefs and support them with engaging information. Confirmation bias is a term used by social scientists to describe this phenomenon. With so many alternative news sources available, prejudice dictates our decisions, from CNN to Fox News. And it encourages those sources to create content that their consumers find ideologically appealing rather than challenging. Of course, there are outliers, such as RealClearPolitics, which aggregates and generates opinion articles from the left, right, and center and hires reporters to write the day’s news correctly. However, such fairness is uncommon. Most outlets have settled into safe ideological enclaves.
As a result, the landscape is dotted with “news silos,” each catering to a specific market niche. The social and political ramifications are extensive. We have more news options than ever before (which is great), but we are becoming isolated from competing viewpoints (bad). The Memphis Commercial-Appeal and other general-interest local papers are no longer in print. Those of major metropolitan newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune, are rapidly diminishing. We have hunkered down in our silos, where no one ever says anything negative about “our side.” This isolation is just going to exacerbate the country’s ideological split. That is extremely unfortunate news.