Today marks a significant day in news coverage. On this day in 1784, the first daily newspaper in America was published (the Pennsylvania Packet & General Advertiser).
Many believe that newspapers have seen their last days. I do not believe it. The paper part may disappear, but trusted news aggregators and news reporters are even more important information sources in this age of fake news and accusations of fake news.
It seems newspapers are suffering on all fronts: Classifieds have drifted to Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist; display advertising is moving to digital; and free standing inserts (FSIs) may be going to direct mail. One large Midwest grocery chain has already stopped placing FSIs in local papers and is now using direct mail to distribute coupons.
However, with all this rather negative news, one chart did change my lead on this story. The New York Times has surpassed 2 million digital subscriptions. The New York Times bucked all common thinking and established a pay wall that now provides nearly half a billion in subscription revenue.
If you look at the chart, how does the trend look to you? I see a steady, strong growth curve over the last six years. So maybe the idea of news “papers” is gone, but the idea of a trusted news aggregator with strong journalistic ethics is still alive and growing—and it’s making money.
The Declaration of Independence was published for the first time in the Pennsylvania Packet. During the revolution, the prevailing government tried to suppress newspapers. Many did not survive the Revolutionary War. That may be the reason why the freedoms of the First Amendment are first and the most important freedoms to a democracy (and for those of you who don’t know, the First Amendment includes freedom of speech, press and religion).