More writers than readers

I just saw this stat as I was searching for something for the book.

Pew said that in 2004, 2007, 53 million Americans “have used the Internet to publish their thoughts, respond to others, post pictures, share files and otherwise contribute to the explosion of content available online.”

Only 50 million Americans now buy daily newspapers.

The writers are starting to outnumber the readers.

And the readers are reading something else. Pew says that in 2006, 57 million Americans read blogs, more than read newspapers.

  • tdc

    wasn’t too long ago rush went off on a tangent about “blogs” like they were one of carlin’s 7 words.

    that was back when i actually listened to car radio AND it just happened to be on when i took delivery of the rental car.

    i immediately headed back to the check-in desk and demanded a different car.

  • Could it be that declining newspaper circulation is also at least in part due to the decline in educational standards, increase in illiteracy, and greater general apathy on the part of the consumer? I think it is too easy to just blame the Internet for the death of the newspaper. I think it is probably just part of a much larger phenomenon – the dumbing and numbing of the US citizen.

  • No quibble with the point, and the trend is clear enough, but I will point out that there is still a difference between circulation and readership. My wife and I both use the Internet to publish our thoughts etc., but we still buy, and read, only one copy of the newspaper a day.

  • Here’s the more relevant figure for the purpose of this comparison: Newspaper readership is roughly 120 million.

  • I still doubt newspaper is the reason for the decline in newspaper reading.. I m sure people most who read news online would care to buy a copy of a newspaper.. And people who have never have the habit of reading newspapers would never follow the news online too..

  • William,
    Fair point except…. I spent enough time around such syndicated research in newspapers and magazines and it was conspiratorial bullshit. By their measures, I had 25 million readers when I wrote for TV Guide. Most most of them died.

  • Corky,
    In a word: no.

  • There are many factors, but I think a big one is generational. People over 50 will likely never adopt “new” technologies. I cringed not that long ago listening to a talk showasaurus refer to participants on facebook as “the children”. ok, dude.

    Here is a great vid to watch on this topic. (h/t Kent Nichols, producer of Ask a Ninja):

  • Brian Robinson

    To Chuck,

    I am over 50, I’ve been online for 25 years, every one (every single one) of my friends over 50 are online, know how to use the Internet, and most know about blogs, twitter, wikis etc. And (if my recollection holds) the fastest growing demographic segment of those going to and using the web for news and learning about various issues are those over 60.

  • Mac McCarthy, my old friend from Infoworld and inventor of the Dummy Series, stated that the most likely subscriber to magazines is a writer. No surprise that online writers dominate offline readers.

    The New Economics of Advertising

  • Brian,

    I apologize. No insult or agism was intended. I didn’t mean to say ALL people over 50 will never adopt new technologies.

    The average reader of newspapers is 55. The % of people reading newspapers btw 18-34 I think is 19%.

    I learned how to program in grad school from a brilliant technologist well over 50.

    Do you feel there is no generational aspect to these trends?

    Do you and friends of yours in your similar age group use twitter or friendfeed significantly?

    I’m curious as to your thoughts on this.


  • Newspapers serve one function (or at least they used to). That’s to ferret out the news. (Now they discuss fashion, cuisine, “lifestyle” and who knows what else.)

    Online communities serve another – interpersonal communication.

    Before there was the internet teenagers spent hours on the telephone chatting with their friends (whom they had just seen in school). Now they do it with Facebook.

    Perhaps we will see a bit of informal news gathering via cell phone cameras and the like, but where is the digging going to come from to reveal the story about the Pentagon prepping shills to promote their agenda on TV if not for newspapers?

    If the NY Times could be delivered to a handy electronic reader every morning, I’d stop getting the dead tree version in an instant.

    It seems to me that Jeff’s continuing concern is not with the function that they are uniquely positioned to provide, but that there is no good business model as to how to pay for it when their advertising stream dries up.

    We only have one popular model these days, consumers don’t pay (or pay much) for information in cash, but pay with time as they sit through ads. I think this shows a lack of imagination; surely there must be ways to run a society other than this.

    So three issues are being conflated: news gathering, news distribution and person-to-person communication.

  • Not only is it a myth that over-50s don’t adapt to and adopt new technologies, it’s also a myth that all teens are techies.

    Not so at all. I used to teach in a university and while some students were techie, many were not at all. Couldn’t research on the web, didn’t know the most common software programs well at all. couldn’t hook their computers up to the AV system, etc.

  • Ann,

    Please understand that I am making an observation about trends.

    I apologize if I didn’t take the time to state that more clearly.

    There’s no fallacy of the appeal to the all here.

    Are there representations of over 50’s who are tech savvy – of course.

    As you rightly observe – there are pleanty of younger people who are not tech savvy.

    I am positing that there are trends we can infer that are generational here.


  • Just to pile on, Chuck, I’m 53. I earned by gray beard. But I can tweet with the youngest of them.

  • you guys are killing me.

    I’m a young looking 41 (thank you GrandDad for the genes). I ‘aint no spring chicken either…


  • Feisty, us old folks.

  • I got no comeback.

    good day, all.


  • pdh

    “Perhaps we will see a bit of informal news gathering via cell phone cameras and the like, but where is the digging going to come from to reveal the story about the Pentagon prepping shills to promote their agenda on TV if not for newspapers?”

    Newspapers used to be the portals and aggregators. In the pre-digital days every town of consequence needed their own portal. Newspapers made a lot of money in that role. However, even good newspapers had half their daily ink spilt on non-original content. Most local TV stations couldn’t break a story if it fell on their heads.

    The issue today is more one of consolidation. Not every town needs its own portal. But many blogs rely on the information aggregators to launch their discussions. My belief is there will be sites doing the original work, just much fewer of them. Many will be local “news” sites, a few will be national. Regional newspapers will have the biggest problems initially because they are neither and are also far less likely to have the mechanism to grab the dwindling advertising dollars.

    News happens. People want to know. So mechanisms will grow up to replace those newspapers that served a necessary purpose even if those newspapers die because they couldn’t figure out how to live on less than 25 percent profit margins. But in the interim many journalists will lose their jobs (and probably their ideals) and much information will not be conveyed as effectively as it was.

    Anyone who believes newspapers will survive just because isn’t paying attention to the harsh realities of todays economy and the fact that many newspapers aren’t seen as any kind of public service. The internet will re-invent newspapers. But those of us pushing 50 or beyond are going to find the process is hard on our careers.

  • You kids get off my LAN …

    The model of Wall Street providing our news is a relatively recent phenomenon, especially the Wall Street that’s dissatisfied with Exxon-level profit margins on their way down to WalMart-level profit margins. I predict that the suffering in paper will go this way:

    JOA pms, then non-JOA pms in two-newspaper towns, then major metros recently purchased by companies with huge debt, then major metros owned by equity firms.

    The longest-living survivors will be very efficient web operations, privately owned small-town papers, suburban weeklies and shoppers.

  • I stopped buying the newspaper because all that crap happened yesterday.

  • what are newspapers?

  • Mark Jenkins


    Your title is misleading regarding newspapers. More accurately stated, there are more writers on the web than there are readers of newspapers. Of course, phrased this way, the point is . . . so what?

    I’ve seen technology change many industries, and for the most part your observations parralel the observations made durring the transitions of these other industries. While the observations are usually correct, the implied impact is almost always nearsighted. In my world, the PDA pundits of the 90’s observed accurately the changes to their industry (traditional, non-wireless, PDA sales began to tank), but painted pictures of a dying industry (therefore the PDA industry is dying). The reality was, and is, that MANY more people buy handheld computing products in the shape of smartphones, BlackBerries, Windows Mobile devices and even Palm Treos than did before the transition. The industry didn’t die, it transformed into a stronger, more vibrant industry because of connectivity. As an outsider to the world of journalism, I will confess that I may not know all the nuances, but I still think the story is analogous to what you are writing. Yes, newspapers are a dying medium. This doesn’t mean that the newspaper industry is a dying business. Connectivity and community of the internet are tools that could help this industry deliver the same valuable content in new and even more compelling ways. As soon as the news business realizes that wood pulp is the only thing that has to die, the industry will begin to find creative ways to grow with its readership instead of just standing still and watching their readership find someone else to give them what they want.

    In almost any industry today, if you want to keep your customer, you need to keep up with them.

  • Mike Kelley

    I am 54. I subscribed to the local newspaper, Time, and Newsweek for many years. Once i got internet access, I soon figured out that these sources were almost worthless due to the liberal bias. If, on rare occasion, I want to see their content, it is available online for free. Why would I pay them for it? The blogs are where I look now most of the time.

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  • Even people who are reading newspaper content online are getting a much different experience than offline readers. RSS feeds and personalized news updates, for instance, allow readers to read what they want from a source without even visiting their sites.

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  • Barbara

    Mark and Mike —
    Newspapers are working to transition into different media.

    The problem is that they rely on advertising income to pay reporters. People using online sites for news don’t pay for subscriptions (which don’t cover the cost of reporters in conventional newspaper organizations anyway). Online ads haven’t produced as much income as print ads.

    Newspapers don’t simply need to stop the presses and stop buying wood pulp. They need to find a new source of revenue.

    You say, “Why would I pay them for it?” Because newsrooms do the work of going to meetings you don’t want to attend, listening to the police scanner while you are at work, interviewing folks while you are running errands, and posting news while you are eating or sleeping or reading other blogs.

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