Changes in Equilibrium Price and Quantity: The Four-Step Process

Newspapers and the Internet

According to the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, increasingly more people, especially younger people, are obtaining their news from online and digital sources. The majority of U.S. adults now own smartphones or tablets, and most of those Americans say they use them in part to access the news. From 2004 to 2012, the share of Americans who reported obtaining their news from digital sources increased from 24% to 39%. How has this affected consumption of print news media, and radio and television news? Figure and the text below illustrates using the four-step analysis to answer this question.

The graph represents the four-step approach to determining changes in equilibrium price and quantity of print news.
The Print News Market: A Four-Step Analysis A change in tastes from print news sources to digital sources results in a leftward shift in demand for the former. The result is a decrease in both equilibrium price and quantity.

Step 1. Develop a demand and supply model to think about what the market looked like before the event. The demand curve D0 and the supply curve S0 show the original relationships. In this case, we perform the analysis without specific numbers on the price and quantity axis.

Step 2. Did the described change affect supply or demand? A change in tastes, from traditional news sources (print, radio, and television) to digital sources, caused a change in demand for the former.

Step 3. Was the effect on demand positive or negative? A shift to digital news sources will tend to mean a lower quantity demanded of traditional news sources at every given price, causing the demand curve for print and other traditional news sources to shift to the left, from D0 to D1.

Step 4. Compare the new equilibrium price and quantity to the original equilibrium price. The new equilibrium (E1) occurs at a lower quantity and a lower price than the original equilibrium (E0).

The decline in print news reading predates 2004. Print newspaper circulation peaked in 1973 and has declined since then due to competition from television and radio news. In 1991, 55% of Americans indicated they received their news from print sources, while only 29% did so in 2012. Radio news has followed a similar path in recent decades, with the share of Americans obtaining their news from radio declining from 54% in 1991 to 33% in 2012. Television news has held its own over the last 15 years, with a market share staying in the mid to upper fifties. What does this suggest for the future, given that two-thirds of Americans under 30 years old say they do not obtain their news from television at all?