Why, why, why is CIRCULATION REVENUE consistently the ONLY CATEGORY TRENDING UP when statistics about Newspaper Ad Revenue are released???

The Decline of Newspapers Hits a Stunning Milestone

This is a rhetorical question, I know “why”… sort of…I just don’t like the answer.

Summary of the actual U.S. Newspaper Industry report on its own health…

The headline is that there is, once again, no headline. Consistent with 20 YEARS (?!?!?!?) of reports from similar sources….

“revenue trends were largely unchanged”

…which remains consistently surprising given how few consumers read or buy the newspaper anymore.

Overall decline in ad revenues was consistent with prior year, about 6% each – mostly driven by decline in print ads. Hardly a cliff.

How much innovation could actually be happening if year after year, one of the biggest channels for RETAIL & CPG MARKETING  (nearly $11 Billion annually!) consistently reports that things are  “largely unchanged”???  

 frog in pot v2Are we RETAIL and CPG MARKETERS being boiled really, really slowly – like frogs – so we stay comfortable and don’t jump out of the pot?


I KNOW we are a smart group of people, so I try to unpack it…

Circulation revenues increased 3.7%

  • Digital only circulation revenue up 47%.
  • Print + Digital BUNDLES are up 107%.
  • Print only circulation revenue is is down 20%.

Umm…so, are they printing more circulars or fewer circulars?  When offering a Print+Digital Bundle, how is the discount weighted? I’m guessing that the part with the low to no variable cost (digital) may be bundled into the print for free, which means if we’re being honest with ourselves, we’re not REALLY being all that adventuresome and innovative, are we?

COME ON RETAIL AND CONSUMER GOOD MARKETERS!!!  If we want to really break new ground and innovate, we have to STOP DELUDING OURSELVES.  While we’re at it, we also have to stop doing the same thing online that we’ve always done in traditional media (i.e. digital circulars and pre-roll video of the same advertising we run on TV).

The only logical conclusion is that there is INSUFFICIENT INNOVATION happening in our space.  The money goes where it’s always gone simply because IT. DOESN’T. HAVE. ANYWHERE. ELSE. TO GO. 

At least it doesn’t have anywhere to go that the point of diminishing returns on ROI doesn’t time out earlier than the audience.

What say you? What’s the most promising company or solution you’re seeing now? What are the issues we need to address?  Are circulars really ALL THAT and more? Is it really all in support of in-store merchandising?

Susan O’Neal Gear has over 20 years of experience at the intersection of consumers, marketing and technology. Passionate about all aspects of a consumer’s relationship with brands and retailers, we’re spending the next year looking for new, groundbreaking thought leadership  – if not disruptive solutions – with the potential to redefine the parameters of consumer loyalty. If you also want to see some game changing happen -then follow Upstream Insight, contribute your voice, share this post…do something!