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COMPILED BY HANNAH J. RYAN
The State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism 2011
In retrospect, 2010 was a good year for news media. The major cuts to the industry seen in 2008 and 2009 were less pronounced this go round, though most traditional media outlets continue to lose readers and viewers.
This is according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. In Pew’s “State of the Media 2010” report on American journalism, there were significant shifts in audiences of the various media sectors.
Audiences are moving, yet last year the only outlets to suffer actual losses in revenue were newspapers.
Today feels almost calm in the world of newspapers, after the 26 percent drops in advertising revenues seen in 2009. Yet, revenues still fell in 2010 by 6.3 percent and print circulation continued to drop by 5 percent in daily papers.
The State of the News Media report lists the trends of the 2010 newspaper industry that reflect the beginnings of progress, as well as some retreats and setbacks:
-Paid online content: After two years of a lot of talk and hardly any action, many newspapers are now poised for real-time experiments in charging for some Web content.
-Mobile and tablets: One of the major events in newspapers, as in other news sectors, was the move to mobile. The serial success of e-readers, Apple’s iPhone (and Google’s Android variation and others from other makers) and now, the iPad and competing devices to follow, has grabbed industry attention.
-Hyperlocal news: Five years ago, an industry mantra held that local news was the core competency of most newspapers and their developing online editions. This theory has since been derailed. First off, merchants have been slow to embrace digital advertis- ing, the majority sticking to more familiar formats like print and yellow pages. Also, many metro papers could not in fact be all that local. Lastly, in the cost-cutting frenzy of 2008 and 2009, reporting and editing positions for hyperlocal initiatives were consistently among the casualties.
-Expenses are back up, quality pinched: The past year saw a surge in expenses, which limits funding available for experiments (especially those with substantial startup costs) and for maintaining editorial quality in print and digital format. Falling newsprint prices had been a windfall saving during the tough years of 2008 and 2009. By the end of 2010 and early 2011, paper costs were back up by 20 to 30 percent.
-The new CEOs — No newspaper experience required: Look at Facebook, Craigslist, Google, Monster and Groupon, and the media giants they’ve created. (http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/newspapers-essay)
Again, this year for magazines was not as bad as it could be. The decline of this business has slowed but circulation is still down and advertising revenue is stagnant.
Yet the end of the recession clarifies some stark realities. Most magazine profes- sionals believe that the industry must finally get serious about changing a flawed eco- nomic model. It must find a way to charge readers more and rely less on advertisers for revenue. And readers, shifting to digital platforms, will be even less responsive to agreeing to subscribe to print magazines they only vaguely want.
Magazines with particularly affluent audiences such as The Economist, The Week, The New Yorker and The Atlantic continued to thrive as the advertising market improved. (http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/magazines-essay)
The rise of the Internet continues.
The online audience and the amount of time spent with news on the Web is increasing. Indeed, the Internet is now ahead of newspapers and closing the gap with television, and among younger consumers, the Internet has already taken the lead. However, much of the traffic to the top news destinations on the Web goes to sites that are owned by traditional media companies.
One important question with online news explores the outlet’s profitability. Online advertising revenue for all kinds of content surpassed spending on print newspapers advertising for the first time.
Audiences have shown a preference for mobile devices as a way to get digitalize news out. People can go to a single destination through an app or Internet-serviced device. (http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/online-essay)
-Network news — The audience for most network news programs has fallen again, though only by single digits. But on the same note, revenues at ABC, CBS News and NBC grew by an estimated 6 percent, thanks to an improving market for television advertising.
ABC instituted sharp personnel cuts. CBS News worked its way from financial losses back to break-even. NBC prepared for new owners, the third such transition since its founding in 1926.
-Cable News — All three major news channels were projected to have increases in operating profits — Fox News by 27 percent, CNN (and HLN) by 7 percent and MSNBC by 8 percent, according to the market research firm SNL Kagan.
Yet audience numbers are down. During prime time, median viewership at the three channels together dropped 16 percent to an average of 3.2 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. (http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/cable-essay)
-Local News — There was some good news for local television! Thanks to the economic recovery and a busy election year, revenues rose sharply in 2010. As more stations continued to add newscasts in new time slots, the overall audience for local TV news actually held steady and new delivery platforms, including mobile, raised hope for the future.
The newsroom makeup also changed as local stations were able to hire again in 2010 after the average number of news staffers hit a seven-year low the year be- fore. But stations are shedding high-priced anchor talent and moving to make more use of multitasking solo journalists. (http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/local-tv-essay)
All in all, the industry is changing and outdoor communications is no exception. It’s terribly important to stay up-to-date on developing innovations and to adapt one’s practices with the fluctuations. The ways of reaching one’s audience is undergoing a revolution, join it.
For the entire report, visit http://stateofthemedia.org.♦
— Brought up wandering in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, Hannah J. Ryan continues to feed her curiosities by pursuing bachelor degrees in journalism and Spanish. She is the spring semester intern at OWAA headquarters. Contact her at email@example.com.
Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism