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Industrywide, the trend has many journalists tracking web statistics in order to meet production and readership quotas to help drive digital profits in the face of declining print revenue. Regardless of increasing gains in digital revenue, income from the printed product remains the largest source of revenue for newspapers, industrywide.
Declines aren't necessarily unique to The Oakland Press. Daily newspapers across the country have all witnessed their print circulation wither since the 1990s. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press have both lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers. In 2015 alone, the average weekday newspaper circulation, including print and digital readership combined, fell seven percent from the previous year, the greatest decline since 2010, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. Likewise, the trend of cutting staff in order to achieve profitability has emptied newsrooms throughout the nation, with staffing losses of about 39 percent over the past 20 years, or about 20,000 positions. Today, there are an estimated 33,000 employees working in newsrooms across the nation.
The most recent assessment of the industry found that print advertising losses are falling much faster than expected, which is likely to spur even more cuts to already struggling newsrooms, according to Ken Doctor, a national news analyst and author of Newsonomics.
"Almost all reported double-digit losses in print advertising this quarter compared to the third quarter of 2015," Doctor said of the three largest publicly-owned newspaper companies and those private companies that shared information. "That's swamping any other progress these companies have made. Digital First Media is in that same place. They have done steady reductions of staff over time, and I anticipate more of those in 2017."
Despite the industrywide trends, some former publishers, editors and newspaper veterans say the demise of The Oakland Press has been accelerated by various corporate ownerships over the years. Particularly, the former Journal Register Company, which has a reputation for practicing what Forbes once labeled "cheapskate journalism," as well as the current Digital First Media, which some media experts say is in the process of bleeding its papers of profits until they can be sold to the highest bidder.
Denver-based Digital First Media, which owns both The Oakland Press and The Detroit News, is among the three largest newspaper companies in the industry, behind Virginia-based Gannett, which owns the Detroit Free Press, and New York-based GateHouse Media. Digital First Media is owned by Alden Global Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that invests heavily into distressed businesses and property....continued on page 4