Newspapers have maintained their relevance as advertising outlets, including both display and classified ads. Local papers retained a considerable percentage of classified ads, especially in the categories of job recruiting and real estate, even after classified advertising became available on the Internet. Regional and local newspapers have remained crucial for small businesses looking to promote in smaller and rural regions.
Although newspapers had traditionally relied on subscriptions and newsstand sales for revenue, it became increasingly clear that advertising was the principal source of income. The expansion of free newspapers (known in the United Kingdom as free sheets) delivered door-to-door or distributed in public locations was one of the major innovations of the 1970s and 1980s.
Smaller newspaper companies print many free newspapers, which are exclusively funded by advertising revenue. Large metropolitan newspaper publishers began experimenting with free tabloid editions of their daily newspapers in the early twenty-first century to increase brand identification among younger readers who were less likely to buy or subscribe to regular newspapers. On the other hand, free newspapers and free news Websites have joined radio and television in posing a danger to the existence of paid-subscription newspapers by instilling the belief that news should not be paid for. Although The Wall Street Journal began charging for its online content in 1996, most newspaper publishers believed that providing free access to the online editions of their publications would generate significant advertising revenue and help grow their print-edition subscription bases. The Wall Street Journal remained the only American newspaper not allowing free reading of some—if not all—of its daily content even ten years later, as publishers increasingly felt the necessity to charge for internet access.
Newspapers must compete for the attention of consumers who can acquire the major points of the news from a variety of sources, in addition to striving to keep their advertising share. Despite the proliferation of portable radios, car radios, cable and satellite television channels, Internet news sites, and weblogs, newspapers have managed to thrive for decades. Sports reporting, racing tips, editorials, cartoons, job adverts, gossip sections, and, ironically, daily schedules of radio and television programs may all entice readers. In reality, the modern reader is more likely to purchase a newspaper to consult a specific area than to read it cover to cover.
Other forms of mass media have impacted the design and content of newspapers, particularly as viewers want entertainment in addition to more direct reporting. The growth in leisure time in affluent countries is one social trend that newspapers have relied on. Newspapers have given special articles to various leisure activities, such as home renovation, gardening, and food and wine, to coincide with the expansion of these hobbies, particularly in weekend editions. As international travel has become more widespread, there has been an increase in the demand for educational information on famous tourist sites. Even the sports pages, an important element of the modern newspaper, have been affected by shifting leisure patterns—the number of sports of general interest has increased, allowing the sports section to expand to cover less popular activities. The ability of newspapers to attract advertising money from commercial suppliers of leisure goods and services provides the economic benefit of protecting additional leisure activities and interests. Newspapers can reflect the society in which they are a part by widening their coverage to incorporate modern leisure activities.