October 29, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the loss of life, jobs and homes. According to a new study, it also hit U.S. newspapers particularly hard.

On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released a report on “the financial state of the news media in the second quarter of 2020.” The report looks at newspapers, cable and broadcast news. “Quarterly data is not available for radio, public broadcasting or digital news companies.”

In that time, median ad revenue at six newspaper chains made up of more than 300 daily newspapers fell 42% compared with the second quarter of 2019.

Related: Here are the newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic

“By contrast, total ad revenue across the three major cable news networks was steady overall, but there were sharp differences between the networks: While ad revenue for MSNBC and CNN declined by double digits, Fox News Channel’s revenue rose by 41%.”

At five local TV news companies, with more than 600 individual stations, revenue was also down, but retransmission fees covered the losses. 

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Among the six newspaper companies studied, Gannett saw the lowest decline in year over year revenue at 35%.
  • In the second quarter of the year, circulation revenue dropped a median of 8%.
  • The impact of the virus includes a continued loss in newsroom jobs. “Of the four companies that reported compensation expenses in the second quarter of 2020, all showed a double-digit percentage decline year over year, with a median decline across the four of 20 percentage points.”
  • At five local TV companies, ad revenue fell by a median of 24%. 
  • Local political ad revenue is lower than in 2018 but higher than 2016. 
  • Network nightly news ad revenue grew by 11% year over year.
  • Network morning news shows lost 4% of ad revenue year over year.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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