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Everything you need to know about the future of newspapers is in these two charts

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We don’t like to dwell too much on the decline of print media, because quite frankly it’s depressing. But every now and then a statistic or chart comes along that sums up the wrenching transformation that is going on in the newspaper business, and we’ve had two pop up recently that are worth noting. Both are aimed at the same fundamental issue: namely, the fact that the decline in print-advertising revenue — which has been in free-fall for years now — is not stopping, or even slowing down, any time soon. If anything, it is likely to accelerate.

The first chart comes via Mark Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, based on figures from the Newspaper Association of America. As you can see below, the chart shows print-based advertising revenue dropping from about $65 billion in 2000 to about $17 billion last year — a fall of more than 70 percent. Coincidentally enough, that $17 billion is almost exactly the same amount that Google made last year from advertising in the United States, according to eMarketer (it pulled in about $50 billion or so worldwide in 2013).

newspaper ad revenue

This chart — which illustrates something I like to call the “cliff of despair” — is an updated version of a similar chart that Perry posted last year, and the year before that. Since he posted the first one in 2012, print-advertising revenue has fallen about $3 billion or 15 percent, and while digital advertising has made up for some of this decline, it is truly a drop in the bucket. Last year, digital accounted for about $6 billion in revenue, or about 10 percent of the $50 billion or so that has been removed from the market in the past decade and a half.

The second chart comes from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers partner and long-time internet analyst Mary Meeker’s latest State of the Internet presentation. It contrasts the amount of time that users spend on a specific form of media — mobile, print, TV etc. — with the share of advertising spending that is devoted to that platform. Last year, print got just 5 percent of the overall time spent on media, but it pulled in almost 20 percent of the overall advertising revenue.


Like the newspaper revenue slide above, Meeker’s chart is an updated version of an earlier one, and the share of time spent that is devoted to print has (not surprisingly) continued to decline over the past couple of years, as Josh Benton points out at the Nieman Journalism Lab. But while the amount of advertising dollars devoted to it has also continued to fall, there is still a dramatic gap. And it is matched by the exact opposite gap on the other side of the chart, where time spent on mobile is 20 percent and share of advertising spend is just 4 percent.

By now, the continued rapid decline of print probably shouldn’t be taking anyone by surprise, but the fact that even leading publications like the New York Times still need to remind their senior staff of these factors in documents like their internal innovation report (which, somewhat ironically, was lavishly printed on paper) shows there is much work to be done translating that knowledge into action. If you work at a newspaper, post these charts in your staff room.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Flickr / Monik Markus

14 Responses to “Everything you need to know about the future of newspapers is in these two charts”

  1. Rob Hage

    HI Matthew,
    I appreciate your article and information.
    I am wondering, have you have ever seen any studies on how much newspaper/print revenue (lumping together) has simply migrated over to, or has been re-allocated as, Digital revenue (Internet and Mobile, on chart above.)
    I work with hundreds of newspapers where total revenue has remained flat or even grown steadily for years now, but digital is taking a higher share of total revenue from their print allocation.
    I think newspapers are perfectly poised as digital agencies etc. for their smb’s and I think studies like the above don’t properly account for this. Or do they?

  2. inisheer

    The problem with mobile is that until some really breathtaking new solutions come up, it’s a lousy venue for advertising. Mobile ads draw terrible response rates — so I think we’re gonna continue to see a huge gap between time spent on mobile web and advertising spend there.

  3. Scott Pannier

    I agree with Jack. The author writes “Last year, digital accounted for about $6 billion in revenue, or about one percent of the $50 billion or so that has been removed from the market in the past decade and a half.” — how is $6 billion 1 percent of $50 billion?

  4. Are these charts really everything you need to know about the newspaper industry? Besides the fact that these aren’t news, wouldn’t charts that showed time spent on newspaper digital properties provide some additional insights? Revenue from non-traditional sources? Organizational re-structuring? Is revenue and time spent the only charts you need to understand Google, Vice Media, NBC, etc.? I think we should treat the newspaper as a complex business with a variety of metrics just as other media platforms.

  5. Olivia Farrell

    I wonder what the 2nd graph actually tells us. Is it perhaps also a commentary on the advertising world’s expertise at capitalizing on each vehicle? Does the low index spend on the internet and mobile reflect our lack of expertise at effectively capturing the “eyeballs” that are spending time those vehicles? Why spend money on the medium when we do not have an effective way of advertising to the audience?

  6. Olivia Farrell

    For clarification, when you say “print”, do you mean newspapers? The first graph states that it is illustrating newspaper ad revenue. The second graph refers to print. Does the second graph incorporate magazine readership and ad revenue?

    Your article seems to use the words “print” and “newspaper” interchangeably. Is your article about newspapers specifically or all print, inclusive of magazines?

    Thank you so much for your clarification of this.

  7. Inès Slama

    Hi Mathew ! Very interesting article. I think it would have been even clearer if instead of publishing Meeker’s chart, you had put the redesigned version by Emiland De Cubber :

    You can find it right here :

    Kind regards


  8. Keith Hawn

    again and again and again and again with this stupid “time spent ve money invested” meme. when diigital/mobile CPMs come up by a multiple of 100, then let’s have the discussion. But right now, at pennies per thousand and falling every day, digital “time” is always going to crush digital “investment” smh…

  9. Bluetiger

    It doesn’t have to be that way. What newspapers need to do is adapt to the modern world. Newspapers are an ending place for information, but they don’t have to be.