American newspapers stopped charting their own sales and revenue declines in 2014 when the usual quarterly updates on ad revenues, and the half-yearly reports on circulations, were abandoned. When that happened (no announcement was made, the updates just stopped appearing), total ad revenues had plunged from US$60 billion in 2001 to around US$19 billion in 2014. All sorts of excuses have been trotted out, but it is plain to see that the flood of bad news about falling print sales and revenues overwhelmed owners and management, so the updates stopped.

But there is one measure which continues to be updated and that is media employment data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (which produces the monthly jobs report and associated analysis). Last Thursday it published its latest assessment of media employment trends, and the look is not good for newspapers, book publishing, radio and magazines. But there was good news for all things online, social media, video and movies. Employment in internet publishing and online broadcasting rose from about 30,000 to nearly 198,000 between 1990 and March this year and now exceeds employment in newspapers. What really stands out is the surge from 2008 onwards in this sector when employment was around 80,000. That’s a rise of 147% in eight years.

But it’s the size of the fall in newspaper employment that is startling — the drop was from 458,000 in 1990 to around 183,000 in March of this year. That is a fall of around 275,000 people. And US colleges and universities continue to churn out thousands of graduates from their journalism and media courses each year!