Newspapers Cling to Life Despite Online News Trend

Print media is limping along and TV news has gained some strength, even though the trend toward getting news online continues to grow, Pew Research reported this week.

It all boils down to economics, said Mark Jerkowitz, associate director of the Pew Research Center Journalism Project.

Advertising revenues for newspapers have fallen about 50 percent from 2006, forcing some smaller publications to close. Others have reduced their publication schedules.

Still, newspapers “are going to be around awhile … because they’re supplying most of the print revenue,” Jerkowitz told TechNewsWorld.

The allure of print publications is fading only in North America and Western Europe, Mukul Krishna, digital media senior global director at Frost & Sullivan, told TechNewsWorld. “Print is still thriving across much of the world.”

The State of News

Digital news now dominates, with 82 percent of Americans getting news on a desktop or laptop, and 54 percent on a mobile device, based on survey results.

Print now accounts for about 71 percent of daily circulation and 75 percent on Sundays, and the 15 largest newspapers now have only about 55 percent of their total circulation in print, Pew said, citing a study by the Newspaper Association of America.

Cable TV, once a major threat to the three major broadcasting networks, is losing its luster. The cable news audience has declined and the daytime audience for cable news held flat last year, Pew said.

Meanwhile, the audience for network TV evening news broadcasts and morning news programs has increased, as has viewership for local TV news.

“Network newscasts lost about 50 percent of their audience in the 30 years from 1980 to 2010, and the long-term trajectory has been downward,” Jerkowitz said. “Anybody who wants to know what’s happening in the world today can find out before 6:30 p.m. by going to their computers.”

Newsstand sales of news magazines continued to fall, and subscriptions were flat.

More people are listening to online radio. The audience for satellite radio continues to grow, but weakly.

Information for overall newspaper ad revenue in 2013 is not available yet, but it fell 52 percent between 2003 and 2012, to total US$22 billion. Meanwhile, newspapers saw digital advertising almost triple during that period to $3.4 billion. Ad sales for news magazines fell across the board.

Total digital ad spending rose nearly 16 percent in 2013 to $42.6 billion. Display accounted for 42 percent of this, and the top 5 display ad companies saw their share of revenue grow from 47 percent in 2012 to 51 percent in 2013. Facebook took in 17.9 percent of all display ad revenue, surpassing former market leader Google’s 16.9 percent.

Issues With Going Digital

Digital news sites are gaining ground, Pew said. Yahoo has beefed up its news coverage, while Mashable hired a former New York Times executive, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar announced that his digital startup, First Look Media, would be led by Glenn Greenwald, who first wrote about the NSA’s surveillance practices based on papers whistleblower Ed Snowden leaked.

Several other news sites have been set up and have hired journalists.

“The question is, can these organizations develop a sustainable business model going forward that’s not going to rely on investor money or some founder who’s willing to put their own money into them?” asked Jerkowitz.

The Threat to News Reportage

If the large tech companies continue to dominate the online ad market, “there’s a real fear that if there’s not a bigger slice of the revenue pie or new sources of revenue streams for news organizations, it will reduce the quality and kind of news Americans will have exposure to,” Jerkowitz suggested.

Between that and citizen reporting and blogs, news organizations will be hard-pressed to stay profitable, Krishna observed, and “this will drive mergers and acquisitions.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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