Our ability to add reporters is counter-trend. An article this week in the trade publication MediaPost cites a Georgetown University study that says newspaper employment fell 63 percent between the 1990s and the 2010s. That’s a loss of nearly 160,000 jobs. And the job loss continues. This month, the Mail-Tribune daily newspaper in Medford, Ore., closed permanently.
Diminished advertising revenue is to blame for nearly all of the loss. Retail and classified ads used to be the newspaper industry’s bread and butter, but online shopping and sites like craigslist have decimated print advertising.
Subscriptions are now the most important source of money for newspapers. Digital circulation is growing, even as the industry sees fewer and fewer print subscribers every year. If you count all of our digital platforms, some of which are free, we reach more people now than ever. We need these people to become digital subscribers. So it’s great to have some new reporters on the beat to give us more to offer.
My wife and I recently visited friends who live in a rural area east of Everett. They’re longtime home delivery subscribers to The Seattle Times and The Herald of Everett. But when I saw their newspapers, I noticed they had mailing labels.
Our friends are experiencing the latest newspaper trend: mail delivery, particularly in rural areas. We’re doing it on a limited basis at The Columbian too, as the pool of people willing to take newspaper routes has evaporated.
Being a newspaper carrier is hard work. You get up before daylight and work (in our case, six) days a week. You have to drive and maintain your own vehicle. Gas is expensive. Regular jobs are plentiful. And if you enjoy doing contract delivery as a side hustle, outfits like DoorDash and Grubhub let you pick your hours.
We are doing our best to maintain carrier delivery. But in cases where that’s impossible, we are turning to the mail, which provides reliable, if not optimal, service.