The pandemic has added to the financial distress that has long plagued the U.S. news industry. Many small news organizations, hit with ad revenue losses, suspended their print editions or reduced their printing to once a week. Journalists have been laid off or furloughed even at high-profile national outlets like Buzzfeed and ABC News. A list of newsroom layoffs and closures compiled by Poynter is frequently updated, but the industry’s troubles have also been documented by The Associated Press, Northwestern University’s Local News Initiative, and the Columbia Journalism Review

“I don’t have a single journalist friend who has not been furloughed or faced a pay cut,” said Maria Clark (USA Today American South). “It’s hit our industry at a pace that’s scary.”

Some news organizations also lost revenue from enterprises like events that they had to shut down because of the pandemic, but as Poynter reported, they’ve also embraced new opportunities by moving large events to virtual formats. 

Despite the news industry’s financial troubles, the pandemic appears to have increased demand for news content. Anecdotally, all the reporters interviewed for this report said their articles were viewed and shared more after COVID-19 cases began to rise last spring than before. 

Industry-wide examples of increased readership include:

  • The Reuters Institute found a surge in news consumption at the end of March compared with 2019 in a survey of six countries: the United Kingdom, the U.S., Germany, Spain, South Korea and Argentina. 
  • In a study of 2,700 Facebook pages for local U.S. news, Facebook’s CrowdTangle analytics team found that readers shared those news posts 40% more in the second half of March 2020 than the first half. News organizations also got 150% more “likes” for their pages in the second half of March.  
  • In Pittsburgh, WESA radio and the Tribune-Review both reported that web traffic doubled during the first wave of cases last spring.
  • A Nieman Journalism Lab analysis of data from news analytics companies Taboola and showed that an initial rise in traffic subsided after a few weeks, but then seemed to settle on a new, higher normal.

This original research is a project of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

Reporters: Matthew MacVey ’16, academic program specialist; Geraldine Baum, assistant dean of External Affairs

Editors: Beth Harpaz, editor for research content and website manager for CUNY website SUM; Amy Dunkin, director of Academic Operations

Website: Rosaleen Ortiz, designer