When people stop reporting statistics on an industry, it could be a sign of increasing irrelevance.
Unfortunately, that seems to be what’s happening in the newspaper and print magazine segment, slowly but surely. Over the past few years, there’s been a steady decline in the number of benchmark reports being published about the industry.
In 2014, Publishers Information Bureau, the longstanding publisher of annual statistics on print advertising pages and ad revenues for magazine titles, ceased providing such data after migrating to a digital audience reporting format.
A year later, the Newspaper Association of America (aka the News Media Alliance) stopped reporting annual revenue figures for the newspaper industry.
Its counterpart in the radio media segment – the Radio Advertising Bureau – has done the same thing as well.
No longer reporting on advertising and revenues is one thing. But now the American Society of News Editors has stopped publishing annual estimates on the total number of journalists working in the newsrooms of America.
For years, those statistics have been a proxy for gauging the overall health of American journalism. And in recent years, what the stats were showing was something pretty ugly.
Between 2001 and 2015, ASNE’s statistics showed a decline in the number of journalists of more than 40%, with the total head count dropping from ~56,400 to ~32,900 over the period.
Perhaps it’s understandable that the news industry doesn’t want to chronicle the continuing decline of a once-vibrant and vaunted profession. But stopping the reporting of stats on it may be sending the wrong message – or adding to the implosion.
At a time of heightened incidences of “fake news” in the media, and when the business model for traditional journalism is increasingly precarious, to take the “real facts” of what’s happening and shove them under the carpet seems short-sighted at best.
By averting our eyes to what’s happening, it could well be exacerbating the trend lines. And then at some point, it won’t be that much of a stretch to think of journalism as a quaint, historical concept that is irrelevant in today’s world.
I hope we never get there. But at the rate we’re going, it’s looking more and more like the “great disappearing journalism.”