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Newspapers are a critical part of the American news landscape, but they have been hit hard as more and more Americans consume news digitally. The industry’s financial fortunes and subscriber base have been in decline since the mid-2000s, and their website audience traffic has begun to decline as well. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data of U.S. newspapers below.
In 2022, estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) was 20.9 million for both weekday and Sunday, down 8% and 10% respectively from 2021.
|Year||Weekday||Sunday||Weekday (estimated)||Sunday (estimated)|
Note: To determine totals for 2015 onward, researchers analyzed the year-over-year change in total weekday and Sunday circulation using AAM data and applied these percent changes to the previous year’s total. Only those daily U.S. newspapers that report to AAM are included. Affiliated publications are not included in the analysis. Weekday circulation only includes those publications reporting a Monday-Friday average. Comparisons are either between the three-month averages for the period ending Dec. 31 of the given year and the same period of the previous year (2015-2019), the six-month period ending Sept. 30 and the three-month period ending Sept. 30 of the previous year (2020), or the six-month period ending Sept. 30 of the given year and the same period of the previous year (2021-2022).
Source: Editor & Publisher (through 2014); estimate based on Pew Research Center analysis of Alliance for Audited Media data (2015-2022).
(Note that the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), the source of this circulation data and the group that audits the circulation figures of many of the largest North American newspapers and other publications, changed their reporting period in 2020 from a three-month period to a six-month period. Additional details about how the circulation estimate is calculated can be found in the methodological note below.)
Within this total circulation figure, weekday print circulation decreased 13% and Sunday print circulation decreased 16% from the previous year.
Digital circulation is more difficult to gauge. Using only the AAM data, digital circulation in 2022 is projected to have remained relatively stable. But three of the highest-circulation daily papers in the U.S. – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post – have in recent years not fully reported their digital circulation to AAM. The Times and the Journal provide data on digital subscriptions in publicly available reports, but since this is not the same as circulation and may not be counted under the same rules used by AAM, these independently produced figures cannot easily be merged with the AAM data. If these independently produced figures were included with the AAM data in both 2021 and 2022, weekday digital circulation would have risen sharply, by 22%.
|Date||AAM only||NYT/WSJ subscriptions plus AAM|
Note: Researchers analyzed the year-over-year change in total weekday circulation using AAM data and applied these percent changes to the previous year’s total. Only those daily U.S. newspapers that report to AAM are included. Affiliated publications are not included in the analysis. Weekday circulation only includes those publications reporting a Monday-Friday average. Comparisons are either between the three-month averages for the period ending Dec. 31 of the given year and the same period of the previous year (2016-2019), the six-month period ending Sept. 30 and the three-month period ending Sept. 30 of the previous year (2020), or the six-month period ending Sept. 30 of the given year and the same period of the previous year (2021-2022).
Source: Estimate based on Pew Research Center analysis of Alliance for Audited Media data and subscription data from SEC filings and audited reports.
The addition of these figures also changes the overall picture for combined print and digital circulation. Before 2020, including these subscription numbers with the AAM circulation data would not have changed the overall circulation picture, as total circulation would still decline. From 2020 onward, however, including the Times’ and the Journal’s digital subscribers reverses the trend. In 2022, total weekday circulation would rise by 12% – not fall by 8%, as is the case when looking strictly at the AAM data. For comparison, the chart above shows estimated total weekday circulation using just the AAM data and when the digital subscriber numbers from the Times and Journal are included over the past seven years. For more details on how this affects our estimates and conclusions, read this post from 2020 on our Decoded blog.
|Year (Q4)||Average monthly unique visitors|
Note: For each year, the average traffic for each website for October/November/December was calculated; the data point represents the overall average of those numbers. Analysis is of the top 49 newspapers by average Sunday circulation for Q3 2015-2019 and the six-month period ending Sept. 30 for 2020 onward, according to Alliance for Audited Media data, with the addition of The Wall Street Journal. For each newspaper, the Comscore entity matching its homepage URL was analyzed.
Source: Comscore Media Metrix® Multi-Platform, US, Unique Visitors, October-December 2014-2022.
Gauging digital audience for the entire newspaper industry is difficult since many daily newspapers do not receive enough traffic to their websites to be measured by Comscore, the data source relied on here. Thus, the figures offered above reflect the top 50 U.S. daily newspapers based on circulation. In the fourth quarter of 2022, there were an average 8.8 million monthly unique visitors (across all devices) for these top 50 newspapers. This is down 20% from 2021, which itself was a 20% decrease from 2020.
(The list of top 50 papers is based on Sunday circulation but includes The Wall Street Journal, which does not report Sunday circulation to AAM. It also includes The Washington Post and The New York Times, which make the top 50 even though they do not fully report their digital circulation to AAM. For more details and the full list of newspapers, read our methodology.)
|Year (Q4)||Average minutes per visit|
Note: For each year, the average minutes per visit for each website for October/November/December was calculated; the data point represents the overall average of those numbers. Analysis is of the top 49 newspapers by average Sunday circulation for Q3 2015-2019 and the six-month period ending Sept. 30 for 2020 onward, according to Alliance for Audited Media data, with the addition of The Wall Street Journal. For each newspaper, the Comscore entity matching its homepage URL was analyzed.
Source: Comscore Media Metrix® Multi-Platform, US, Average Minutes Per Visit, October-December 2014-2022.
Average minutes per visit for the top 50 U.S. daily newspapers, based on circulation, was just under 1 minute and 30 seconds in Q4 2022. This represents a 43% decline from when we first began tracking this in Q4 2014, when the average minutes per visit was just over 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
The total estimated advertising revenue for the newspaper industry in 2022 was $9.8 billion, based on the Center’s analysis of financial statements for publicly traded newspaper companies. This is down 5% from 2021, a slight drop. Total estimated circulation revenue was $11.6 billion, compared with $11.5 billion in 2020.
|Year||Advertising ($)||Circulation ($)||Advertising ($, estimated)||Circulation ($, estimated)|
Source: News Media Alliance, formerly Newspaper Association of America (through 2012); Pew Research Center analysis of year-end SEC filings of publicly traded newspaper companies (2013-2022).
In the chart above, data through 2012 comes from the trade group formerly known as the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), now known as the News Media Alliance (NMA). Data from 2013 onward is based on the Center’s analysis of financial statements from publicly traded U.S. newspaper companies, which in 2022 numbered four and accounted for about 300 U.S. daily newspapers, from large national papers to midsize metro dailies and local papers.
From 2013 onward, the year-over-year percentage change in advertising and circulation revenue for these companies is calculated and then applied to the previous year’s revenue totals as reported by the NMA/NAA. In testing this method, changes from 2006 through 2012 generally matched those as reported by the NMA/NAA; for more details, read our 2016 report.
|Year||Advertising revenue coming from digital advertising|
Source: Pew Research Center analysis of year-end SEC filings for publicly traded newspaper companies that break out digital advertising revenue for each year.
Digital advertising accounted for 48% of newspaper advertising revenue in 2022, based on this analysis of publicly traded newspaper companies. This follows a steady increase from 17% in 2011, the first year it was possible to perform this analysis.
In this fact sheet, circulation data through 2014 is from Editor & Publisher, which was published on the website of the News Media Alliance (NMA), known at the time as the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). The NMA no longer supplies this data, so the Center determined the year-over-year change in total circulation for those daily U.S. newspapers that report to the Alliance for Audited Media and meet certain criteria. This percentage change was then applied to the total circulation from the prior year – thus the use of the term “estimated total circulation.” This technique is also used to create the revenue estimates, using the financial statements of publicly traded newspaper companies as the data source.
Find out more
Read the methodology.
Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Find more in-depth explorations of U.S. newspapers by following the links below:
- After increasing in 2020, layoffs at large U.S. newspapers and digital news sites declined in 2021, Oct. 13, 2022
- News Platform Fact Sheet, Sept. 20, 2022
- Local Newspapers Fact Sheet, May 26, 2022
- U.S. newsroom employment has fallen 26% since 2008, July 13, 2021
- A third of large U.S. newspapers experienced layoffs in 2020, more than in 2019, May 21, 2021
- Coronavirus-Driven Downturn Hits Newspapers Hard as TV News Thrives, Oct. 29, 2020
- Nearly 2,800 newspaper companies received paycheck protection loans, and most were under $150K, Oct. 29, 2020
- Americans’ main sources for political news vary by party and age, April 1, 2020
- Black and white Democrats differ in their media diets, assessments of primaries, March 11, 2020
- Fast facts about the newspaper industry’s financial struggles as McClatchy files for bankruptcy, Feb. 14, 2020
- U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided, Jan. 24, 2020
- For Local News, Americans Embrace Digital but Still Want Strong Community Connection, March 26, 2019
- What are the local news dynamics in your city?, March 26, 2019