Our Insights

A stack of newspaper with text in the bottom corner "The Future of Print: Evolution or Extinction?"

The Future of Print: Evolution or Extinction?

June 25, 2024
Read Time: 

“Is print dead or dying?” That’s a question raised in many of our client and internal meetings, and one that’s quickly followed with speculation of whether local newspaper advertising is worth the investment. “Let’s put an ad in the paper” used to be the go-to advertising solution for businesses. They could be confident that they’d reach their community, thanks to widespread avid readership. Now, we all know the media industry is an ever-evolving landscape and the answer to “is print dead or dying” isn’t straightforward. Once the primary source of news and information, print publications are most definitely facing obstacles. As more people embrace digital technology, understanding the history, challenges, and necessary transitions of print newspapers is important for both industry insiders, potential print media advertisers, and readers alike.

Through the years, newspapers have been a trusted resource with a rich history. Allow me to share a little slice of my own dated history with you. When I was a kid, I’d visit my great-aunt and uncle’s home for days, sometimes longer. They were older, the closest people to “grandparents” in my family, and they were avid newspaper readers. There were two editions that arrived in the designated paper box, one edition in the morning and another in the afternoon. My relatives would read the contents as they sipped coffee at the kitchen table or sat on a well-worn upholstered chair. They read the paper thoroughly from front page to back page, holding it in their hands and I remember hearing the swishing noises as they turned each page. The newspaper had a very distinct smell, and I could clearly see the ink on their fingertips by the time they flipped to the last page. It was part of their daily routine that served as an act of relaxation while absorbing knowledge. They’d pull out something for me called “The Mini Page” which was a full page, weekly insert that was folded in half. This was the paper’s attempt to entice kids to follow in their parents’/grandparents’ footsteps, getting them to read and learn about current events. It had puzzles, word searches, and pictures to color that revolved around the main news story, and do not get me started on the perks of having Silly Putty on hand. As the newspaper publishers intended, this interactive exposure fueled my first interest in newspapers. Have my kids had this same experience? Not even close.

Once a slower, methodical part of our daily routine, print newspapers now find themselves struggling to adapt in a digital world where speed is paramount. Declining circulation and advertising revenue as well as rising production and distribution costs are now determining the longevity of local newspapers. Papers with out-of-date business models are quickly realizing the need to adjust. In 2023 alone, we lost an average of 2.5 local newspapers per week, more than 130 closed or merged.(1) News content quality is also being scrutinized as trusted journalists face more frequent layoffs, as many as 500 journalists were laid off from news outlets in January 2024, and the strength of the stories and writing suffers as a result.(2) The current number of newspapers remaining in the U.S. is estimated around 6,000, with most being weeklies.(3) Still, there are major concerns for the outlook of print media as readers turn to online news sources and social media platforms for their news and information.

To survive in today's media landscape, print newspapers must embrace digital innovations. Fewer and fewer people are willing to wait for a printing press to publish local and national news updates. With the rapid exchange of information online, waiting for a weekly publication for news that occurred last weekend, just isn’t realistic. Newspapers need a strong online presence through websites, mobile apps, and social media platforms to remain current, reach new audiences, and retain long-time readership. Diversification is key for not only remaining a trusted resource that readers seek out, but to ensure content is available where readers are today. The twice-per-day visited paper boxes of the past have now evolved into regularly refreshed inboxes with newsletters from online publications. Plus, we’re all receiving by-the-minute headlines on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media feeds.

When evaluating print publications for print media advertising, there are several factors to consider. Audience engagement is of the utmost importance, so review the publication's health to see if they’re truly serving, impacting, and connecting with their community. Circulation numbers that were once consistent annually may now be changing as often as quarterly, so don’t be afraid to ask for the most up-to-date numbers. Publications that were once daily may have reduced how often they go to press and are now publishing every other day or even weekly. Digital and print audiences vary greatly at times, so you may find the digital data reveals reader interests and demographics that help determine if advertising to them makes sense. Content quality is equally important, so we need to evaluate the relevance, accuracy, and diversity of content, especially as many newspapers look to national feeds over local coverage.

The future of print newspapers remains uncertain. However, if publications understand the industry challenges and innovate to make necessary transitions, there’s potential for print media and print media advertising to develop a more sustainable future. Papers must remain relevant and competitive while also embracing digital growth in our fast-paced world.

Lewis Media has over 30 years of expertise in asking the right questions and helping clients determine whether there’s value in print or digital media buying and whether the two should be woven together to best benefit the client. Stay informed, support quality journalism, and let our experts guide you in the decision-making process, so that you fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of print media advertising.

I invite you to share your thoughts on the future of print newspapers and the industry. Where do you get your news? Do you have more trust in well-known print newspaper news feeds or social media news feeds?


(1)  The Daily Northwestern. Local news deserts expanding despite some ‘bright spots,’ Medill report says. November 16, 2023 https://dailynorthwestern.com/2023/11/16/campus/local-news-deserts-expanding-despite-some-bright-spots-medill-report-says/

(2)  Politico. Over 500 journalists were laid off in January 2024 alone. February 1, 2024 https://www.politico.com/news/2024/02/01/journalism-layoffs-00138517#:~:text=In%20the%20last%20month%2C%20dozens,more%20than%20100%20employees%20cut

(3)  Forbes. This Year The Loss In The Number Of Newspapers Published Accelerated. November 11, 2023 https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradadgate/2023/11/21/this-year-the-loss-in-the-number-of-newspapers-published-accelerated/?sh=7c6d95e52650

Vickie Brooks