Private Interests Over the Public Good

With newspaper readership at all-time lows, newsprint notices are no longer an effective means of public notification. Readership began a steady decline in the US since 1990, but began a rapid fall-off since 2006 – dropping from 38% to only 26%. Today, with so few reading newsprint, it’s hard to justify buying expensive newspaper ads with taxpayer dollars.

Facing shrinking revenues and growing shareholder complaints, newspaper companies are fighting and crushing the taxpayer movement to bring local public notice’s online. In 2008, 158 legislative proposals were introduced to bring public notices online, but strong lobbying defeated each effort.

Crushing the fledging efforts makes sense to newspapers – public notices represent the most reliable and predictable source of income for newspaper’s advertising portfolios – and it’s taxpayer money! For them, the revenue is reliable and predictable because local governments are required by law to publish notices in newspapers. With an estimated 17.06 million individual local public notices advertised in newspapers across America every year, legal notices are huge to their bottom line – at our expense.

Yet decreasing revenue and circulation are long-term realities for newsprint, largely because of the Internet. For example, newsprint revenue dropped from a high (in 2000) of $64 billion dollars to $20 billion in 2012. Of that $20 billion, five to ten percent comes from public funds spent on public notice ads, estimated between $1-2 billion dollars (hard to be sure, they don’t readily publish the information). To cover their losses, global marketing consultants Simon-Kucher & Partners have called for newspapers to increase their advertising rates – more tax money.

Meanwhile, the use of the Internet is at all-time highs. As of April 2012, the PEW Internet & American Life Project reports 82% of American adults use the Internet and a full 66% of Americans have a high-speed broadband connection at home. Importantly, over half of Americans over the age of 65 use the Internet, representing a growing trend. As far as affordability is concerned, a full 71% of those households who earned less than $30,000 have the Internet and 46% of those same households have high-speed broadband Internet.

Local governments can do better, and as the first national database designed to publish, organize and file all official public notices, comments and press releases, we know they can. Following the lead of our partner, we will publish only official notices, ensure local governments maintain control over all notice postings, and it’s free to use. Local action begins when local people demand it.

Please send an email to encourage your local officials to publish local notices online!