Newspapers: Publishing, or Publishing and Printing

SIC 2711

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in publishing newspapers or in publishing and printing newspapers. These establishments carry on the various operations necessary for issuing newspapers, including the gathering of news and the preparation of editorials and advertisements but may or may not perform their own printing. Commercial printing is frequently carried out by establishments engaged in publishing and printing newspapers, but even though the commercial printing may be of major importance, such establishments are included in this industry. Establishments not engaged in publishing newspapers but that print newspapers for publishers are classified in SIC 2759: Commercial Printing, Not Elsewhere Classified. News syndicates are classified in SIC 7383: News Syndicates.

Industry Snapshot

According to the Newspaper Association of America, 48.5 million newspapers were sold every weekday in the United States in 2008, with an additional 49.1 million sold on Sundays. On an average weekday, 51 percent of adult Americans read a newspaper; on an average Sunday, that figure jumped to 58 percent.

Despite these statistics, some analysts view the newspaper industry as doomed. Declining readership among young people, considered to be a predictor of future readership, along with increased Internet viewing among Americans as a whole are blamed for the eventual demise of print newspapers. Other experts, however, consider such predictions to be exaggerated and narrowly defined and are of the opinion that the newspaper industry is not dying but evolving.

Since its birth, the newspaper has faced competition from other media. First came radio, followed by television, and then cable television, with its 24-hour news channels. Unlike those competitors, the Internet is not a medium that is wholly distinct from newspapers. On the contrary, newspaper publishers have launched web sites that can be used in concert with the print version. By 2009, online newspapers were viewed by an average of 74 million people a month, or about 38 percent of all Internet users.

Few people claim, however, that the industry is not without its challenges. Indeed, it has been feeling pressure since the late 1980s. Many papers with long histories have been forced to shut down, and many others have reported financial losses. To counteract this crisis, publishers reduced editorial and production staffs through layoffs and hiring freezes, raised newspaper prices and advertising rates, experimented with new layouts, and increased automated processes.

Organization and Structure

A variety of publications could be called newspapers. The most common format is the gatefold, which is divided into individual sections. Pagination in a gatefold restarts in every section. The other major format, the tabloid, is read like a book or a magazine. Tabloids usually have fewer articles than gatefolds and are paginated without interruption from beginning to end. Traditionally, the content of tabloids has been considered less serious and less comprehensive than that of gatefolds.

Frequency of publication is another variable among newspapers. The papers with the greatest circulation are dailies, most of which issue a denser, more expensive Sunday edition. There are far more weeklies in operation, although their circulation is smaller. The two most common types of weeklies are the community newspaper and the alternative newspaper. The community newspaper highlights local current events such as education, sports, and politics. The alternative newspaper provides coverage of news items and arts-related activities that are often overlooked by the mainstream press. Since advertising provides the bulk of revenue for weeklies, these newspapers are often free.

Advertising.
Most newspapers rely on circulation and advertising to finance their operations. Measured in linage, advertising amounts to about 80 percent of an average newspaper's income. Placement of advertisements is a significant factor since the section and page of an ad, as well as its size, determine its price. Department stores traditionally have been a major source of advertising dollars, filling pages with pictures of their merchandise. Classified advertising is also a reliable and profitable endeavor for newspapers, adding up to 37 percent of total advertising income. This type of advertising is sold by the word.

One controversial development in newspapers in the early twenty-first century was the "advertorial," or paid announcement on the opinion page or in another section where the advertiser expects to gain from its context. Other advertisements of this type consisted of multipage inserts or theme magazines distributed with papers. Paid announcements were labeled as such to avoid confusion; however, many editors felt the ads jeopardized the integrity of the newspaper.

Circulation.
Newspapers are sold in vending machines and privately owned newsstands or by subscription, which allows customers to pay a reduced rate per issue and have the paper delivered to their homes or businesses. Newspapers profit from subscribers because they represent guaranteed, consistent sales. In determining a price for newspapers, publishers have to weigh the potential earnings from sales against what readers are willing to pay. If the price is too low, circulation might be healthy, but profits could decline. If the price is too high, circulation could drop.

Expenses.
Averaging 50 to 60 percent of total costs, personnel represented the largest expenditure for newspapers. Departments include management, editorial, advertising, circulation, and production. Within the editorial department, the staff is divided according to paper sections, which may include local and national news, sports, entertainment and the arts, business, opinion, and others, depending on the paper's size and focus.

Newsprint was the second-highest expense, averaging one-quarter of total costs. The United States uses more than one-third of the world's newsprint, most of which is for the nation's newspapers. A drop in newsprint costs can save a newspaper during hard times, and since a failed newspaper means loss of business for the newsprint manufacturer, most offer substantial discounts from list prices. However, publishers such as the New York Times Company and the Tribune Company also own paper mills and consequently suffer when newsprint sells at a low cost. Equipment, such as printing presses and cameras, represents the third largest expense for newspapers.

Background and Development

Newspapers have served to inform the public of events and circumstances pertaining to society, government, and commerce for centuries. The providers of information were expected to be reliable and current, without neglecting their other function of entertaining the literate population. The Acta Diurna of the Roman Empire and the Chinese gazettes of the first century A.D. are the distant ancestors of today's newspapers. The first modern newspapers appeared in Europe in the sixteenth century.

Newspaper reporters had a responsibility to act as watchdogs against injustice, corruption, and impropriety. The right to expose these qualities in public figures is protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The first great moment in U.S. journalism was in 1735 when a court case decided the issue of freedom of the press. Editor John Peter Zenger was brought to trial on charges of seditious libel for printing articles that were critical of colonial Governor Sir William Cosby. In his successful defense of Zenger, Alexander Hamilton invoked the Magna Carta and stressed that opposition to the establishment was a basic civil liberty, thus creating the foundation on which the U.S. press was built.

An overriding objective for U.S. newspapers was to reach as many readers as possible. One early manifestation of this aim can be seen in the New York Tribune, founded by Horace Greeley in 1841. Priced at one penny, the paper was written by Greeley and other advocates of social change in a style that was described as simple but not condescending. It boasted a tremendous readership throughout the country, which led to enthusiastic support from its advertisers. The populist instincts that Greeley embodied eventually evolved into "Yellow Journalism," a term that originally referred to the practices of many of the New York daily newspapers during the late 1800s. Joseph Pulitzer, editor of the New York World, and William Randolph Hearst, editor of the New York Journal, strove to increase circulation through a variety of aggressive tactics, such as reporting sensational stories, setting headlines in extremely large type, making extensive use of pictures, and issuing Sunday supplements with color comics.

Telegraph lines, which by the turn of the century reached points all over the United States and crossed the Atlantic Ocean, were essential to the dissemination of news, and they facilitated the rise of cooperative news gathering. The Associated Press, originally formed by the morning newspapers of New York City, allowed member newspapers to publish each other's stories. England's Reuters news service and other similar European agencies established reciprocal agreements with the Associated Press, fostering the potential for newspapers to print stories from around the world. The United Press and the International News Service were established to compete with the Associated Press during the 1920s. In 1958, these two services merged to form United Press International.

In the early twentieth century, newspapers began to contend with the rise of new media that were capable of quickly bringing more information into U.S. homes. The formation of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1919 represented the first of these challenges. In 1929 advertising revenues at newspapers were still far ahead of those of radio, but the newer medium was quickly growing. The Great Depression, which left the newspaper industry with barely more than half of its advertising income, had little effect on radio advertising, which doubled in the years from 1929 to 1933. A second news forum that was introduced in the 1930s was the newsreel, which was shown between features at movie theaters.

The 1950s brought another challenge for print journalism. Television captured the imagination and leisure time of many Americans. As it quickly became the medium of choice, television siphoned advertising dollars from newspapers. Network television news became more readily identified with major events, such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The 24-hour Cable News Network (CNN) debuted in 1980, and its phenomenal growth contributed to the notion that newspapers were becoming an outmoded form of transmitting breaking stories. The late 1980s and 1990s saw an even greater expansion of cable television, and American viewing habits changed accordingly. By 1995, the average adult spent approximately 1,560 hours each year, or 30 hours a week, watching television. During the same time, newspapers across the country battled circulation losses, and the number of daily newspapers dropped from 1,745 in 1980 to 1,489 in 1998.

Since the 1960s, newspaper management has undergone a transformation from essentially family-run companies to the concerns of multimedia corporations. According to Ellis Cose, author of The Press, 1963 brought the first sign that the newspaper industry was in for a change. That year, the Chandler family, owner of The Times Mirror Company, whose chief holding was the Los Angeles Times, listed the company on the New York Stock Exchange. Soon other newspapers went public, making their actions accountable to shareholders and not just the families that ran them. This trend led to the growth of newspaper chains and the proliferation of a corporate culture, which stressed profits and growth over conventions of journalism. By 1989 five companies--Washington Post Company; Times Mirror Company; The New York Times Company; Gannett Co. Inc.; and Knight-Ridder Inc.--were responsible for one-fourth of the newspapers read each day in the United States. The top 10 newspaper companies owned more than 270 newspapers, accounting for about half of total daily circulation. In keeping with the transformations of the industry, corporations that controlled newspapers began to branch out into other related ventures such as book publishing and marketing, and as a result their newspapers became part of entire communications systems, rather than self-contained enterprises.

Through academic studies and marketing surveys, publishers attempted to identify the demographics and habits of newspaper readership. Factors included age, sex, and financial status; frequency and duration of an average read; the instances where one newspaper was shared by two or more readers; and the sections of the newspaper that were read or ignored. In most cases, these inquiries yielded discouraging results. A study by journalism professor Gerald Stone determined that between 1967 and 1989, the number of people aged 18 to 29 who read a daily paper declined 35 percent. According to Stone, this drop was due to parents passing on to their children their own disinclination for newspaper reading, resulting in an ever-deepening alienation from the publications. The trend was linked to a pervasive apathy toward current events.

The economic recession at the end of the 1980s brought heavy losses in advertising and circulation revenues. The effects were even felt by new publications. The St. Louis Sun, a tabloid created by Ralph Ingersoll II with money from junk bonds, debuted in September 1989 and closed the following August. The National, a nationwide sports daily, ran only 18 months before folding in June 1991. Even papers with long histories, many of which had survived the Depression, began to shut as well. These included The State-Times of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the Dallas Times Herald. The latter's closing left 900 people unemployed and made Dallas the largest city in the country with only one daily paper. In 1991 United Press International filed for bankruptcy for the second time in six years.

One solution to these dire conditions was the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA). Under the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, newspapers were largely exempt from antitrust suits. In a JOA, two or more newspapers are allowed to share the costs associated with operations while maintaining separate editorial departments. However, the papers must prove that one could not survive without the JOA. One of the most substantial and controversial agreements, between Knight-Ridder's Detroit Free Press and Gannett's Detroit News, was finalized in November 1989 after a lengthy court battle.

At the time, 1990 and 1991 were the two worst years ever for the newspaper industry. For the first time since the depression, there were back-to-back losses in annual advertising revenues as national, retail, and classified linage all shrunk. Following this difficult period, newspapers enjoyed increasing advertising revenues, which began to rise again in 1992, with a 3.9 percent gain, followed by 5.2 percent gain in 1993. Advertising revenues reached $39 billion in 1996, a 7.7 percent gain from 1995, and a $5 billion increase from 1994. The industry's advertising revenues rose from $41.3 billion in 1997 to $43.9 billion in 1998, a 6.3 percent increase.

During the 1990s, consolidation occurred within the industry, with numerous mergers and acquisitions taking place every year. In 1998 more than 160 daily newspapers changed hands, compared to 73 dailies in 1994. Mergers and acquisitions are fueled by considerations of economies of scale and by the desire for strategic clustering in specific geographic areas.

Readership continued to be the primary problem facing the industry in the early 2000s. According to a 1996 American Opinion Research poll, only half of those in the industry said that it would be "healthy" in 10 years. As noted earlier, newspaper readership declined from a high in the early 1970s, when approximately three of every four adults read a newspaper, to less than six of every ten adults in 1998. Daily circulation also continued to decline. For the six-month period ending September 30, 2002, daily circulation at three of the nation's top 10 metropolitan newspapers declined. With the exception of the New York Post, which achieved a remarkable 10.5 percent increase, the remainder experienced no growth or growth of 1 percent or less.

Despite these figures, and the fact that little or no real growth was expected, newspapers concentrated heavily on readership and circulation in the early 2000s. As Editor & Publisher explained in its 11 November 2002 issue, "Having finally convinced advertisers and analysts to accept readership as the medium's most important audience measurement, the nation's biggest newspapers are, ironically, as focused on circulation as they were back in the sales wars of the penny press." Challenged by limited marketing resources, many papers ramped up their subscriber retention efforts. For example, a growing number of papers offered longer-term subscriptions at a discounted rate.

USA Today was the industry's most revolutionary gesture toward appealing to a mass readership. Pioneered by Gannett's Allen Neuharth in 1982, USA Today modified the approach of other newspapers aiming at the entire nation--The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor. The paper was printed in regional plants via satellite transmissions from its editorial centers. Aware that advertisers and readers tended to regard the average daily newspaper as visually bland and difficult to navigate, designers of USA Today incorporated such features as an easily read index on the front page, bold graphics featuring statistical information related to the day's events, and a large color weather map. The newspaper was even sold in vending machines designed to resemble television sets. Neuharth limited the number of sections in his paper to four: a news section emphasizing the positive side of current events; a "Money" section devoted to business coverage with a strong consumer orientation; an extensive sports section providing many pictures and ample statistical data; and a "Life" section encompassing health, education, and entertainment. In September 2004, the paper's U.S. circulation of 2.3 million put it ahead of The Wall Street Journal (1.8 million) as the leading national newspaper. Gannett claimed that USA Today was available in 60 countries in 2003.

After the dismal early years of the early 2000s, the newspaper publishing industry was back to healthier levels in 2003, thanks largely to increased advertising revenues. The $45 billion spent on newspaper advertising that year was nearly 20 percent of the entire amount spent on advertising in all media combined.

Despite these positive figures, a major concern of the newspaper industry continued to be readership, particularly of the under-25 age group, which had the lowest readership of all groups in the mid-2000s. One strategy to sell copies in the short-term was that of newspapers being purchased in bulk by a third party, usually advertisers, which then distributed the newspapers for free. Another strategy was to produce new publications that were then distributed free of charge directly from the publishing company.

Despite these efforts, circulation continued its steady decline through the mid-2000s. Total daily circulation fell annually: In 1990, weekday circulation was 62.3 million; by 2006, that figure had dropped to 52.3 million. This drop was attributed by some experts to increased Internet usage among Americans. However, many of those users visit web sites owned by newspapers. According to the NAA, more than one-third of all Internet users visited a newspaper web site over the course of a month in 2005, and the number of unique visitors to those sites climbed 21 percent during that year. Of the nation's top 25 news and information web sites in the mid-2000s, 11 were owned by newspapers.

Advertising revenue, the lifeblood of the newspaper industry, grew at a snail's pace in the mid-2000s. The NAA reported that total advertising revenue for U.S. newspapers was $49.3 billion in 2006, up from $48.7 billion in 2000. Over the course of those years, print advertising, which was comprised of national, retail, and classified, actually declined slightly. However, revenue from online advertising had increased significantly since 2003, the first year that this classification of advertising was tracked by the NAA. At that time, online advertising was $1.2 billion, but by 2006 it had more than doubled to $2.7 billion.

Current Conditions

In 2008, the number of U.S. daily newspapers was 1,408 and the number of Sunday newspapers was 902, according to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). Circulation that year reached 48.5 million during the week and 49.1 million on Sundays. According to Dun and Bradstreet's (D&B) 2009 Industry Reports, 13,559 establishments employed 369,458 workers in the newspaper publishing industry in the United States in the late 2000s. California had the most newspaper publishers, with 1,272, followed by Texas with 941 and New York with 844. D&B reported annual sales in this industry to be $35.9 billion in 2008.

The Internet continued to be the largest area of growth in the newspaper industry in the late 2000s. According to the NAA, the number of Americans accessing an online newspaper on a regular basis grew throughout the first decade of the 2000s, reaching 74 million by late 2009. According to an article published in American Journalism Review, newspapers' online revenues more than doubled between 2003 and 2007, from $1.2 billion to $2.7 billion. The article also noted that while large newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington PostToday were experiencing increasing numbers of Internet viewers, smaller newspapers' presence online was more "at risk." Experts expressed varying expectations for the future of print newspaper. For example, Denise Warren of the New York Times Co. said, "I don't foresee [print dying] in my lifetime," but Phil Meyer, journalist and author of The Vanishing Newspaper, predicted "There will be enough ads for ink on paper to survive, but mainly in niche products for specialized situations."

Industry Leaders

Gannett Co. Inc.
A diversified news and information company headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Gannett ranked first in U.S. daily circulation in 2009. Its 85 dailies newspapers had a combined circulation of 6.5 million. The company also owned some 850 non-daily papers and, through its Newsquest subsidiary, another 200 publications in the United Kingdom. Founded by Frank Gannett in 1906, the company began acquiring newspapers throughout New York. It owned 22 dailies by 1947, the year Gannett died. Allen Neuharth joined the company in 1963, and is credited with making it a major force in the industry. After going public in 1967, Gannett absorbed small newspapers all over the country, bringing to them exacting management requirements and transforming them into profitable enterprises. Additionally, Gannett augmented its holdings with radio and television stations and entered the field of billboard advertising. The birth of USA Today in 1982 was facilitated by the fact that Gannett's reporters, editors, and technology were established in every region of the nation. By 2009, USA Today had a circulation of 1.9 million, second in the nation behind The Wall Street Journal. In 2008 Gannett posted revenues of $6.7 billion and employed more than 41,500 people.

Tribune Co.
The Tribune Company, based in Chicago, was the second largest newspaper publisher in terms of revenue. It owned 10 daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. The company also owned and operated 23 major-market television stations, giving it access to more than 80 percent of U.S. households. Its cable networks included Superstation WGN and the CW Television Network, which was formed by the merger of the WB and UPN networks in 2006. In 2008, total company revenue was $5.0 billion and employees numbered 21,000.

The McClatchy Co.
The McClatchy Company was founded when James McClatchy launched the Sacramento Bee in 1857. For more than a century, the company expanded by acquiring newspapers throughout the West and into other regions of the nation. In 2006, McClatchy became the second-largest newspaper publisher in the United States by purchasing Knight-Ridder Inc. The acquisition brought 32 daily newspapers into McClatchy's stables, as well as dozens of non-dailies, digital assets, and 10 foreign news bureaus, thereby expanding McClatchy outside of the United States for the first time. In 2007, the company's position slipped to third-largest newspaper publisher when it sold its largest paper, the Star Tribune. Its remaining newspaper holdings numbered 30 dailies with a combined circulation of 2.5 million. Still headquartered in Sacramento where it was founded, McClatchy posted revenues of $1.9 billion in 2008 with 12,100 employees.

The New York Times Co.
The New York Times Co., which owned The New York Times, the Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, and 15 regional newspapers, was a diversified media company that was also involved in magazines, television and radio stations, and electronic information and publishing. The New York Times ranked third in circulation behind USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. The Times has been a longtime stronghold of journalistic standards, beginning when Adolph Ochs and his son-in-law Arthur Hays Sulzburger emphasized comprehensive coverage and news writing of the highest order. In 2008 the New York Times Co. reported sales of $2.9 billion with 9,346 employees.

Workforce

The newspaper publishing industry employed 335,780 in 2008, down from 380,144 in 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average hourly rate for workers in the industry was $19.92, and the average annual salary was $41,420. Most workers were employed in arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations, which included such positions as graphic designers, writers, editors, and photographers.

In light of the changes in newspaper management and production during the late twentieth century, individuals working in the industry were obligated to learn new skills and take on new duties. Foremost among these were related to the computer revolution, as word processing programs and developments in page design proliferated in newsrooms. Some of the tasks that previously belonged to production departments, such as typesetting, either became obsolete or were dramatically altered with technological developments. In addition, some departmental differences began to disappear, meaning that former specialized positions now required proficiency in many areas, as well a general knowledge of all newspaper operations.

Research and Technology

In the early 1990s, some newspapers began migrating to supplying electronic information. They made their databases available to subscribers, creating special editions and enhancing their classified ads. The five newspapers with the highest circulation--USA Today, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post--were among the first to have online versions. By 2008, online newspapers reached 74 million Americans. Competing with newspapers were various web-based news and information services, offered for free or on a subscription basis.

Despite being touted as the most important development in the industry since the invention of the printing press, online publication posed some challenges. Creating an online newspaper is both expensive and labor intensive. Since reading an on-screen publication is different from reading a newspaper, design and graphics are even more important, and content must be adjusted accordingly. If an online newspaper has no subscription fee, advertising revenue must absorb the costs. Advertisers supporting the online version may pull their dollars from the print.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

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