There has been so much talk about the decline of newspapers that many readers surely ask why they should care, particularly since sales to newspapers represent such a small percent of the stock-photo business. However, trends at newspapers are strong indicators of what many believe will happen with magazines and other information suppliers in the not too distant future.
Now, two major newspapers are about to drastically reduce circulation. The Detroit Media Partnership, which prints Gannett’s Detroit Free Press and MediaNews’ Detroit News, has announced that it will cease daily paper delivery during the first quarter of 2009. The new, scaled back publishing plan is to only deliver papers to homes three days a week: Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Papers will still be printed and delivered to newsstands daily, but most industry observers think that customers used to getting their paper at their doorstep will not bother to buy it at newsstands at a much higher per-edition price.
Detroit is the tenth largest newspaper market in the United States. In effect, these papers are telling readers that if they want to know what’s happening from Sunday morning through Wednesday, they must go to the Internet or television. Hopefully, when readers turn online, they will go to the newspapers’ Web sites and elsewhere. Granted, Detroit, the home of auto companies nearing bankruptcy, is a market in pain, but it seems unlikely that newspaper distribution can ever go back to daily once it has been cut down.
The future for news and information is obviously online, but there is no indication that online ad revenues will ever come close to what they have been in print. This will have a severe impact on what these publications will be able to pay for both editorial and advertising pictures. These papers are also asking their unions for a 9% reduction in work force, and that may not be nearly enough.
Kubas Consultants, which specializes in analyzing newspaper advertising, recently released the results of a survey of more than 400 daily newspaper executives and managers. These people have based their 2009 budgets on the expectations that newspaper advertising will be 12% below 2008 levels in the first half of next year. They expect advertising to recover somewhat in the second half, for an overall 2009 downturn of 9%, but there may be a lot of wishful thinking involved when looking six months into the future. “The severity of expected declines is remarkable. The outlook has very much deteriorated compared to a year ago,” according to Kubas.