The New York Daily News laid off half of its news-gathering staff this week. The total number of reporters and editors is now down to 45 from 400 reporters in 1988. The Daily News circulation peaked at 4.7 million on Sundays and is now 200,000 daily, 240,000 on the weekend. This is a shocking development for those of us in PR who have relied on the mainstream media as our primary means of distribution of information.
To put this reduction in force into context, note that employment at U.S. newspapers declined from 424,000 in 2000 to 183,000 in 2016. Total estimated circulation for print and digital product in 2017 was 31 million for weekday and 34 million for weekend, down 10 percent from the prior year. In 1975 peak circulation for U.S. daily newspapers was 60 million. Digital circulation has flatlined at 11.7 million, after significant increases from 2014 to 2016. Circulation revenue is now $11 billion for the industry, up slightly from year 2000, while advertising is $16.5 billion, down from $50 billion in year 2000.
Business and service magazines are under similar financial strain. Advertising revenue has declined in the past decade from $14 billion to $7 billion. Publishers of magazines are seeing the possibility of an ad-free future when all revenue will be generated by circulation or events.
The story is not much better on the broadcast side. The average age of the network evening news viewer is 67 years old. In 2017, local morning news viewership declined by 15 percent, the evening news by 7 percent. There are 30,000 people in newsrooms, about the same as a decade ago.
At a time when mainstream media is under attack, we must remember how important it remains for PR and for safeguarding the facts. Media relations is core to our business and building trusted relationships with journalists and publishers is a cornerstone of our work.
The PR industry recognizes that the news hole is permanently downsized, a reflection of the migration of audiences to social media. More than half of Americans get their news on social media sites, up from 45 percent in 2016. Facebook is the big horse in this race, three times larger than second-place YouTube.
PR people must evolve their approach and bring credible information directly to people. Mainstream PR firms must go beyond pitching stories to developing our own audiences, providing them with substantive information that is useful and shareable. There are specialist firms such as SJR that have made a business of content production. We should offer a place for consumer-generated content and commentary. We must move into partnerships with digital-born outlets on a hybrid basis, part paid and part earned. We are in the business of building relationships that yield consumer insights and active discussions.
At Edelman, our Collaborative Journalism unit has done brilliant work for Hilton’s Passport Project, for Dove to find women who exemplify Real Beauty and for Mitsubishi Regional Jet to share its progress in designing a new aircraft from scratch. We must go faster. All of our PR teams must think like journalists, find stories and get them out quickly. This is my big project for the next six months. This is do or die for the PR business.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.