Does Print Have A Future: Statistics

Posted on 12/13/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Some argue that there will always be plenty of print publications and demand for images to be used in print. Here are some numbers to consider.


According to the Magazine Publishers Association the annual combined paid and verified average circulation per issue of all ABC magazines hit a peak in 2000 or 378,918,978 copies. Since then there has been a steady decline to 325,237,070 in 2010. This does not take into account the declining number of pages in many national magazine although there does seem to be a growth in size of some specialists and regional and local magazines.

Single copy sales of magazines have been going down for the last 30 years. In 2000 there were 60,240,260 single copies sold. That number had dropped almost 50% to 32,999,207 in 2010.

Printing Industry

Dr. Joe Webb, of WhatTheyThink?, a market research firm specializing in the printing industry reports that through the late 90s and into 2000 shipments of printed materials produced in the U.S. and Canada were in the range of $135 to $140 billion annually. In 2001 this number started a steady decline. (Note that this is the same time the Internet started to explode.) In 2009 annual shipments of printed materials hit about $85 billion and have remained at that level for the last two years. There has been a great deal of consolidation in this industry and many smaller firms have gone out of business in the last decade. It is expected that the deterioration will continue through 2017 when sales will be down to $52 billion.

In 2005 25.7% of U.S. printing imports came from Canada and 30.3% came from China. The rest of the world imports were at 44% of the 2005 total. While the rest of the world percentage remained relatively stable through 2011, Canada’s share of printing imports will drop to 16.1% this year and China has picked up the difference growing to 43.1% of total imports.


Once the bastion of content creation/curation, newspapers are in their 5th straight year of seriously declining revenue. Many had hoped that newspapers could maintain their franchise and grow their audience by delivering content online as well as in print. The delivery part of the equation is working but advertising dollars are not following.

In Q4 2007 total annual newspaper sales in the U.S. were about $49.5 billion with $3.5 billion of that from online sales. In Q4 2010 total sales had dropped to $26.9 billion with $3.2 billion of that from online sales. Sales for 2011 are expected to be about $24.8 billion with $3.3 billion in online sales.


In her annual Internet Trend Report Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins (formerly of Morgan Stanley) outlined the following ad spending trends relative to the time consumers spend using the five media sources.  

  Time Spent Advertising
Print 8% 27%
Radio 16% 11%
TV 43% 43%
Internet 25% 19%
Mobile 8% 0.5%

When it comes to the amount of time consumers spend accessing media about 43% of it is spent watching TV. Advertisers spend about 43% of their ad dollars on TV ads, which would seem to be about the right balance. However, when it comes to print only 8% of consumer’s time is spent with print media while 27% of the ad dollars are currently being spent on print ads. Conversely, 33% of consumer time is spent on the Internet and mobile devices, but only a little over 19% of the ad dollars are directed to these electronic products.

Eventually, advertisers will wake up. They will start pulling a significant portion of their ads from print, and directing those dollars toward the Internet and mobile devices that offer a better chance of producing results. There are two things for photographers to consider here. First, fewer print ads will mean a further decline in the use of still pictures for both advertising and editorial purposes. Second, as the dollars migrate to electronic devices chances are that the visuals required for electronic device ads will be more video and motion and less still imagery.   

Some hope that the 2012 election cycle will result in an increased demand for printed products. Based on what has been happening in the past decade as more people turn to the Internet and social networks for their information there is not expected to be much growth according to Dr. Joe Webb. Consider how the use of broadband has changed over the last decade. The following are the number of broadband users in the U.S. during each of the last 4 elections.
2000 3,270,000
2004 46,382,067
2008 129,883,762
2010 158,329,776
2012 ??????

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Jonathan Ross Posted Dec 13, 2011
    Great post Jim,

    Can you help explain why a photo should cost a buyer less to purchase for online use if such a high percentage of the market is being driven by the internet. It does not take the photographer less time or money to make the image and it costs less for the buyer to promote their company with that image than it did when they had to run a print campaign but because we are still caught in a sales model that is based on images size the returns for stock have plummeted. I believe it is not so much an over abundance of good imagery it is that the sales model for online use has not adjusted to what it should be. Just my two cents.

    Jonathan Ross

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Dec 14, 2011
    I agree with Jonathan on this. An answer, Jim??

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