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Newsroom staffs were in steep decline even before the pandemic

May 5, 2020 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

According to a recent analysis from Pew Research Institute, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped 23%, year-over year. The situation has been severely exacerbated by Covid-19. In fact, by April 10th, the media industry had already seen 36,000 layoffs attributed to the economic effects of the pandemic. The situation has grown so dire that last month, the News Media Alliance and America’s Newspaper sent a letter to Congress and President Trump asking the government to provide direct support to local newsrooms.

A decade of decline

Pew’s new research highlights the plight of diminishing newsrooms across the country at a time when Americans are in extreme need of local news. They found that, in all, there were about 114,000 newsroom employees (reporters, editors, photographers, and videographers) across the industry sectors of newspaper, radio, broadcast TV, cable and other information services in 2008. In 2019, there were only 88,000. Now with recent layoffs due to the financial impact of Covid-19, newsrooms are being reduced at an alarming rate.

The research shows that most of the newsroom declines occurred between 2008 to 2014. From 2014 to 2019, the number of total newsroom employees remained at 88,000. While four of the five key newsroom industries remained relatively stable, newspaper newsroom employees declined by 51%. In 2018, newspaper newsrooms had as many as 71,000 workers across the U.S. Today the number of employees is approximately 35,000.

Further, across the five industries of newsrooms, job growth only occurred the digital-native news platform. The number of digital-native newsroom employees more than doubled (117%) from 7,400 workers in 2008 to about 16,100 in 2019.

Shrinking newsrooms now account for a significantly smaller portion of overall newspaper employment, from 62% in 2008 to 40% in 2019. Needless to say, the pandemic is devastating revenues across media outlets. None have been entirely immune to its economic and staffing impacts.

Business model shifts

Shifts in business models are taking place to compensate news publishers for their content after years of social platforms disruption of content monetization. The Australian government announced on April 21, 2020 that Google and Facebook would have to pay publishers for their news content in their country. This monumental decision requires compensation for news articles displayed on Facebook pages or in Google search result. This is an important move to ensure tech platforms pay for the content fueling their advertising revenue growth.  

Newsrooms must monetize their content to survive. Identifying ways to support and compensate publishers for their content on platforms outside their owned and operated sites is critical to sustain the media ecosystem.

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