Sep 20, 2012 01:51 PM EDT

Newspaper Industry Shrinks 40 Percent In A Decade; Job Cuts Continue

As readers continue to flock to the internet for their daily and breaking news, the newspaper industry continues to see a decline within the publishing industry.

New figures from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics show just how small the newspaper industry has become since the turn of the 21st century.

MediaPost's Erik Sass reports that total employment in newspaper publishing has dropped by more than 40 percent in the last 10 years. In 2001, the industry had employed 414,000 people, but that number fell to 246,020 people by 2011.

the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which reports a slightly less pessimistic 28.1 percent decline over the last decade. However, neither report does much to refute general consensus that newspaper publishing faces more systemic hurdles than perhaps any other industry in America today.

In April, the research firm IBISWorld ranked newspaper publishing No. 5 on the list of the country's fastest-dying industries. The industry is declining at an average annual rate of 6.4 percent, IBISWorld wrote, and it's expected to continue to decline by an average annual rate of 4.2 percent through at least 2017.

These figures can prove very dangerous to those who work or would like to work within the print industry.

According to the Newspaper Association of America (NAM), total advertising revenues have declined by more than 50 percent in just five years -- going from $49.3 billion in 2006 to $23.9 billion last year.

More and more newspaper publishers are embracing the idea of paywalls for their publications' websites. Once an industry rarity, paywalls have skyrocketed in the last 18 months, as many publishers have followed in the footsteps of the New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), which enacted a paywall in early 2011. In the third quarter of last year, 41 American papers adopted paywalls -- up from 10 for the same period the year before.

According to MediaPost, some of the largest newspaper companies were also the hardest hit over the last decade. Gannett Co. the country's largest, had 51,500 employees at the end of 2001. By 2011, that number was down to 31,000, a drop of 40 percent. Similarly, the Times Co. also declined by 40 percent, with 12,050 at the end of 2001 compared to 7,273 last year.

Despite the ongoing declines, some newspaper executives remain optimistic that the industry can adapt to a digital world. In August, NAM released a study showing that 25 percent of newspaper executives believe the industry will be more relevant five years from now than it is today, while only about 16 percent say it will be less relevant.

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