The “newspaper extinction timeline” sucks
We had Philip Meyer predicting that in 2043 no American would read a newspaper every day (although many would read one almost every day).
We had NYT CEO Arthur Sulzberger saying that the New York Times will eventually have to stop printing (without saying when).
And now we have ‘futurist’ Ross Dawson saying that all newspapers (except those in Benin, Madagascar, Paraguay, Belarus, Honduras and some other exotic places) will die within 30 years. The list of ’survivors’ should have made anybody suspicious, but strangely enough the graph was included or referred to on numerous websites and blogs – mostly without too many questions asked.
Dawson even predicted the death of newspapers in Russia, which is extraordinary, as predictions should be based on data – and there are no data on newspaper circulation in Russia, but Dawson even predicted that extinction would be different in rural and metropolitan areas. Amazing!
Countries like Canada, Australia and New Zeeland – known for having a very healthy circulation development or showing only marginal losses – were on Dawson’s death list for 2020, 2022 and 2024.
How did he do that? What were his data? On what were his theories based? No information on that except that “mobile”, “tablets”, “demography”, “technology” etc. could play a role… wow, I wish I would have thought of that.
I did my own ‘extinction’ predictions, but this time with real data and explaining how I did it.
I selected the UK, a country were newspapers will become “insignificant” (no info on what that means on Dawsons website) in 2019.
Anyone with an excel-sheet can make predictions. Its no rocket science.
I took the UK circulation data (paid and free papers – and only paid papers) from 2004 to 2009 and calculated the average changes over those 5 years, but also over 2005-2009, 2006-2009, 2007-2009 and 2008-2009. This percentage I used to calculate the losses until 2050 (meaning that I used a fixed percentage – you could do that different of course, increasing the percentage).
For all (free and paid) newspapers I came to this (click to enlarge). The average losses over the last years are bigger, so those lines decrease faster. But even with 5% loss every year, circulation will be around 10 millon in 2019 – not very insignificant in my book.
When we only consider paid newspapers, UK circulation with fall from 14 million now to below 10 million copies between 2015 and 2020 (decline percentages between 3 and 6). With a 6% decline every year, paid circulation will be less than 5 million in 2027.
It’s like Disraeli said: “there are lies, big lies, statistics and futurists”.
These graphs, called “UK papers will be around for many years” will hardly be as popular as Dawson’s of course.