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The economic crisis brought about by COVID-19 dramatically accelerates trends already underway in the newspaper industry. Writing in NiemanLab, Ken Doctor – author of Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get – describes the survival challenges confronting local and independent publishers amid the coronavirus outbreak and outlines developments that are likely to change the face of the newspaper business forever.


Newspapers once anticipated a five-year transition to largely digital delivery and a reader-revenue model. The upheaval wrought by COVID-19 has radically accelerated that change.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, if you had asked most local newspaper publishers to imagine how the newspaper business would be operating in five years, they would have described an industry more digitally-based and more dependent on reader subscriptions than today. The crisis has launched local newspapers into that future swiftly and abruptly.

Local newspapers must make decisions right now to adjust to a new reality they’re likely to have to live with permanently. Basic survival decisions can’t wait: Cut back on print days? Reduce ad sales staff? Eliminate large central offices in favor of remote work? Local papers are losing market share to the competition from public radio and local television, which share a greater ability to survive the loss of ad revenue. Independent papers may find opportunities here, but building readership in a shut-down economy will be a struggle.

Local newspapers must dramatically reduce their number of print editions to gain...

About the Author

Ken Doctor, the author of Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get, is an analyst for the research firm Outsell and a former vice president of Knight Ridder Digital.

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