Nearly 2,800 newspaper companies received paycheck protection loans, most under $150K

By Mason Walker and Katerina Eva Matsa, Pew Research Center

Mason Walker  is a research analyst focusing on journalism and media.
Katerina Eva Matsa  is an associate director of journalism research at Pew Research Center.

This is a sliver of the roughly 5.2 million PPP loans that have been lent out to small businesses – but represents a large segment of newspaper companies.
According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics of U.S. Businesses, there were 4,166 U.S. companies in the newspaper publishing industry in 2016, and these companies collectively employed nearly 180,000 people. Read on.

The Paycheck Protection Program was established back in March 2020 as part of the CARES Act, a federal coronavirus aid package, to help small businesses pay employees and other expenses. These loans were designed to be forgiven if certain employee retention criteria were met and if the funds were used for eligible expenses.

Any company that self-identified as a newspaper publisher, was affected by the coronavirus outbreak and employed fewer than 1,000 employees was eligible to apply. The cap of 1,000 employees means that many local newspapers owned by larger companies such as Gannett or McClatchy were not eligible to apply. The qualifying rules also mean that some companies that are part of the newspaper publishing industry but are not traditionally thought of as newspapers, such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, are included in the data.

The vast majority of these PPP loans were relatively small in size. About eight-in-ten (84%) were for less than $150,000, 9% ranged from $150,000 to $350,000, 4% were between $350,000 and $1 million, and about 3% were $1 million or more. This was about on par with PPP loans across all industries, of which 87% were less than $150,000, according to the SBA. In the data released by the SBA, loans were broken out into six different ranges and these ranges are used throughout this report.

The largest PPP loans – those for $5 million or more – mainly went to bigger regional newspaper companies, such as Seattle Times Co., Newsday LLC and Times Publishing Co. (publisher of the Tampa Bay Times).

Out of the 2,778 self-identified newspaper companies that received PPP loans, 2,435 provided employment figures. In total, that amounted to an estimated 40,236 employees, with an average of 14 employees per loan. Companies that received loans that were less than $150,000 reported six jobs per loan on average, those with loans in the $150,000-$350,000 range reported 26 jobs on average and companies with loans ranging from $350,000 to $1 million reported 53 on average. Companies with loans issued for more than $1 million tended to have more jobs per loan on average, but these larger loans made up only a small share of the total number issued. Since 12% of newspaper companies that received PPP loans did not report their number of employees, it is likely that the number of newspaper employees within companies that received loans is higher.

Looking at the geographic distribution of PPP loans, more loans went to newspaper companies in states with larger populations, with newspaper companies in medium or smaller states receiving fewer loans. Indeed, about one-in-five (21%) of all PPP loans went to newspaper companies operating in three states: Texas (8%), California (7%) and New York (6%). Delaware, Rhode Island and Hawaii were the three states with the fewest PPP loans to newspaper publishers, with less than 1% of the loans going to those states. Several factors might explain why newspaper companies in larger states received more loans, ranging from the fact that larger states in general received overall more PPP loans, to previous research that has shown that more newspapers exist in more populous states and newsroom employment overall tends to be concentrated in certain geographical areas.

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